Summary of Nelta Conference in Surkhet

NELTA Event of Surkhet

– Raju Chitrakar

NELTA Surkhet hosted second phase of  15th NELTA International Conference. Despite few weaknesses, the ceremony was taken to be a grand success. It gave good message not only to the participants, but also to the host and its centre.

The conference took place from 24 to 25 February 2010. NELTA Surkhet labored hard with a sense of fortune to host the conference and a chance to show the branch’s ability. The branch certainly got the chance to be fortunate. But how much it became able to show its ability is in the judgment of the participants.

On the following day after the NELTA International Conference in Kanthmandu, 21 Feb., Professor Dr. Jayraj Awasthi, NELTA Chair Gangaram Gautam, Dr. Numa Markee, the key note speaker of the conference and Kate Miller, a UK English language fellow,  flew to Surkhet. They took pre-conference class on course designing to the teachers of degree level of different campuses. Many national and international participants arrived the venue the same day.

The inaugural ceremony was conducted on the morning of 24 February. Welcoming all the delegates and participants Mr. Balaram Khadka, the campus chief of Surkhet Campus Education, thanked the central committee of NELTA for its decision to conduct the conference at Birendranagar. Prof. Dr. Tirth Khania, the Member of National Planning Commission, was the chief guest. He expressed the possibility of government working with NELTA in the matter of developing ELT situation in Nepal. He even promised to play a positive role for this. Prof. Dr. Jayraj Awasthi flashed back the time when he came to Birendranagar by standing on the hood of a truck to open NELTA branch in Surkhet in the year 1996. He also expressed his satisfaction with the development of the branch and wished its betterment. Ms. Amanda Jacobson, Cultural Affairs Representative of US Embassy, highlighted the contribution of American Centre in developing ELT in Nepal. Mr. Ewan Davies, Deputy Director of British Council, highlighted the school links British Council has been making to develop performance of English teachers of Nepal. Dr. Numa Markee, the key note speaker, praised the contribution of NELTA in developing ELT situation in Nepal. Mr. Bhusan Manandhar, President of Mid- western University Establishment Committee, expressed the need of foreign help in the development of human resource in the context of their effort in developing Birendranagar as an educational zone. Mr. Uttam Gaulee, President of NELTA Surkhet branch, revealed the effort of Surkhet branch to coordinate in the region and thanked all for their respective roles in holding the mega event at Birendranagar. There were around twenty foreign and twenty Nepalese delegates and over 400 participants of over 200 schools of Mid- and-far-western regions. The theme of the conference was “English in diversity.”

The participants were delighted to see before them and hear the insightful presentations of Numa Markee, the key note speaker, of Kate Miller, and of their guru Prof. Dr. Jayraj Awasthi in the plenaries. And they also felt enlightened by getting innovative methods of ELT from the presentations in the concurrent sessions of the foreign delegates like Prof. Dr. Stefan Colibaba, Susna Kennedy, Kate Miller, Susan Deith, Dr. Boguslaw Marek, Gretchen Coppedge, Dr. Numa Markee, Kateerine Lea, Deniel Stead, Marilyn Eversloe, Beth Trudell, Khalid Mehomood Ch and of many other foreign and Nepalese presenters. There was a cultural show from Folk Songs Academy Surkhet after the closing ceremony, which made most of the audience including NELTA President Mr. Gautam dance.

Ms. Kate Miller gave a three-day post-conference ToT to forty participants. All the participants were very happy to know the importance of learning English sounds in the journey of learning English. She found enormous hunger for learning in the participants. Miller had given a teacher training at Birendranagar two years ago, too. She found many of the participants of that time taking part at this time as well. However, she was surprised to find no any change i.e. professional development in them. Susan Kennedy from Australia summed up the experience: “Leading the Surkhet branch of Nepal English Teachers Association, Uttam demonstrated super organisational skills bringing together hundreds of local teachers and students and international speakers on a remote campus in Nepal for the 15th Annual Conference.”

Mr. Uttam Bista, an English from Kanchanpur district, said, “I have taught English several years, but only now I knew how to teach it.” Feeling the necessity of teacher development through academic organization like NELTA, Mr. Dhruba Shahi of Achham district said that he will also open NELTA branch in Mangalsen of Achham. Many participants were seen to be taking the addresses, mostly of the foreigners. What more aims than these NELTA event like this could have! Many participants were heard saying “grand success of the conference.”

However, despite our best efforts for good arrangement of the conference, we noticed so many weaknesses during the event. For example, we could not manage time, volunteers and reporters/rapporteurs; we could have managed some guest houses for some participants as the hotels were too expensive; there were some defects in multimedia and food managements; we all looked wild as we all had to do everything; the journal was not well-prepared and came few minutes late. And there were certainly many more.

We would have been happy if we had been reminded of the weaknesses. NELTA President Mr. Gautam only said, “There were some weaknesses but the conference was far better than the one we first conducted in Kathmandu.” Senior vice-chair Mr. Laxman Gnawali said, “The Surkhet event proved that we can conduct NELTA international conference even outside the capital.” General secretary Mr. Hemant Dahal expressed his satisfaction for his coordination in making the quick decision to conduct the conference at Birendranagar. Ms. Kate Miller said, “NELTA should do something for the teachers of remote areas of Nepal. Government should support for this. They should make a five year plan.” All the foreigners thanked for the management and hospitality. They praised the geographical features of the valley as well.

However the conference, we are thankful to the NELTA Central Committee for its quick decision without any hesitation. As our Chair Mr. Uttam Gaulee knew that I was going to attend the central meeting after the event, he said, “Please convey my thanks to the centre for their all supports to Surkhet branch.” All the foreign delegates including Dr. Numa Markee and Neplese delegates including Prof. Dr. Tirth Khania, Prof. Dr. Jayraj Awasthi are also thankful as without their presence the event could never have been so worthy. All the trainees must be thanked as the event could not have been successful without their presence.  Donors like District Development Committee Surkhet, Surkhet Campus Education, different public and private schools are also thankful as their help made the works easier for us. And credit goes also to Surkhet Intellectual Forum (SIF) for its help in coordination. We are sure that if Surkhet or another branch gets another chance of holding such a mega event in the future, it will not leave any stone unturned.

Raju Chitrakar

Advisor

NELTA Surkhet

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2 Responses to Summary of Nelta Conference in Surkhet

  1. Shyam Sharma says:

    This is a great post. It informs us about the presentations, discussions, and responses of those who attended. It is now for the rest of us to hold a conversation based on this post. One thing that stood out to me is the inspiration and persistence among the organizers and the enthusiasm of everyone else. This is not about the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, England but about an over-sized gathering of teachers in western Nepal. Here is a heart-warming line from a reflection that Uttam Gaulee shared with me earlier: “I remember Dr Markee presenting a slide when I had to push my way from the crowd of 450 participants in a hall of 200 capacity towards the laptop running out of battery.” This makes me feel that Gorkhalis are redefining their bravery in a new way: their courage is now reflected in the intellectual work, professional commitment, resilience and persistence in the face of crippling material conditions, and the sense of sacrifice. The Choutari team received more materials that we have posted and once Kamal Sir and Prem return to Nepal we might figure out a way to share them as well. But much more important than that, we want all of us to share some reflections, suggestions, or at least congratulations for colleagues from Surkhet.

    • Kate Miller says:

      Surkhet represented an explosion of enthusiasm, both from the very hard-working committee and from the grass roots teachers who are the ones on the front line daily doing a fantastically difficult job.
      My memories of Surkhet, the morning before the conference, a bare field and rain. A possible disaster. But no! As the day wore on, sun re-appeared, people and equipment arrived, a beautiful canopy, hundreds of chairs, pots and pans, flowers. Laughter and chatter. Maybe Uttam looked a little worried on occasions, but with the enormity of the job he had willingly undertaken, who wouldn’t look a little worried. People were happy to gather, to talk, to meet old acquaintances and make new friends. I loved the ‘on-the-hoof’ problem solving, how to make the large canopy technology friendly – it was rather too light for the slide show – to do this with everyone watching and patiently waiting took a lot of focus. The problem did get solved, and the next day alternative arrangements made. Yes, there were some grumbles, there always are at things like this, no-one can please everyone all the time. But to put together a two day conference in this remote area, with hundreds of hungry teachers, and flying in, and bussing in participants and fighting for limited hotel space, AND MAKING IT ALL WORK BRILLIANTLY, was a massive achievement for NELTA Surkhet, and this will always stand as a model for other branches who will understand the courage and tenacity needed to put on an event like this, but who know that it is possible and can happen for them too.
      During the conference and the TOT, (and from emails I have received since), I was overwhelmed by the many teachers who want to learn so many things. Not just individuals, but organisations, who are desperate to upgrade their knowledge of ELT and their practice in their schools. One government school told me they have good premises and resources (which they do), and they want to develop not only quality teaching, but English medium quality teaching. Their question? How do we do this? What a question! This is the crest of a wave that has been emerging over the last few years. There is no way the needs of teachers can be ignored. The Surkhet conference gave the teachers in mid- and far-West the awareness that they are part of a global happening, that there is a different way to work, which is not only fruitful but essential, and they quite understandably want to be part of this. This is a huge job, not a job for only a few enthusiastic volunteers, but a job that needs to be made systematic and imperative. The energy of the Surkhet conference cannot be allowed to lapse because of inability to follow-up. The task is how to work with hundreds of teachers who now want to know more, and want to know NOW! We have a collective responsibility as we have opened Pandora’s box. It is like showing a child a plate of sweets and telling them they cannot have them, they can only look. And this will escalate after the next conference, and the next. We do not need to think about will we be ready then – are we ready now?

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