17 July 2017

In the first week of May, streetfootballworld visited ‘Childreach Nepal’ in South Asia. The trip was part of the German Federal Foreign Office’s ‘South Asia Sport Development Funding Programme’.

 

Through streetfootballworld, 13 organisations in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka have received project funding to support football for good in the region. Childreach Nepal is one of two organisations in the country to benefit from the programme.

 

OUR FIRST DAY IN NEPAL: ARRIVAL IN KATHMANDU

 

The landing in Kathmandu is spectacular: the Himalaya Mountains fly past the window as the plane begins its descent through the hills towards Kathmandu – a valley 1400 metres above sea level. Shortly before we touch down, a football pitch comes into view - it belongs to the army stationed at the airport. A promising start to our search for football in the country.

 

The airport itself is tiny and cramped; all baggage arrives on just three belts: but the travellers wait patiently for their bags to arrive. We are given a warm welcome by Prateek and Shamsher from Childreach Nepal, the organisation that will host us in the coming five intense days.

 

At their office, we meet the team and receive an introduction to their work – but not before we have read and signed their Child Protection policy, which is mandatory for all staff and visitors.

 

WE MEET CHILDREACH NEPAL

 

Childreach Nepal aims to transform public schools into community hubs, not only supporting teachers with capacity development, but also by organising football for good programmes once a week, run by young leader teams. The organisation has just recently started to use football3 (through a training session by streetfootballworld network member Slum Soccer) and is otherwise using the Coaches Across Continents curriculum. The organisation runs projects in three different districts – one of them high up in the mountains. Unfortunately, our visit to that site was cancelled because of security risks linked to the upcoming elections (the first in 20 years).

 

The main social challenges that Childreach Nepal aims to address are: Gender inequality, especially in terms of education; unsafe migration and trafficking; the authoritative, non-engaging educational system based on rote learning from books.

 

One of the first things we learn is that physical education in school does not actually involve physical exercise. Instead, it is about teaching the different rules of the games. The same applies to science – labs and science experiments are few and far between at Nepali schools. Most lessons are theory-driven and taught through books alone. This is the reason why Childreach Nepal invented the “beyond the books” campaign that helps teachers to improve their classes. Bringing football into schools is one aspect of it.

 

For the football initiative, which is run in 12 public schools, Childreach Nepal has developed a multiplier approach: Two staff members act as Training Monitoring Officers – they oversee the whole project. From the community, youth mentors are recruited, who coordinate the implementation of activities within the schools. At each partner school, two “young leaders” are selected: one student and one young teacher. They receive training to run football for good sessions at the schools, which have set Friday afternoons aside for the activities.

 

SECOND DAY: VISITING FOOTBALL TRAINING PROGRAMMES IN BHAKTAPUR

 

Our second day brings us to Bhaktapur, a city an hour away from the capital, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and home to one of Childreach Nepal’s programme sites. On the schedule: A refresher training session and meeting with mentors and young leaders from all partner schools, finishing with a football3 tournament between two district schools.

 

In a short break, we speak to Angmo, 16, Sunita, 15, Anjana, 15, and Hasina, 14, all of them young leaders at their schools.

 

Hasina and Angmo both want to become scientists. Sunita would like to start a career in social work, with an organisation like Childreach Nepal, and Anjana would like to become both a doctor and a pilot! As she couldn’t decide what she liked more, she decided she could be both as, if there was a medical problem on one of the planes, she could help there, too.

 

At the end of the training, we join Anamika from Childreach Nepal on a stroll through Bhaktapur, a beautiful city full of old temples, which was so badly hit by the earthquake in 2015. Almost exactly two years later, we still see many streets where the houses have not been rebuilt. At the UNESCO World Heritage site Bhaktapur, which holds the most important temples in Nepal, the reconstruction seems only just to have started. Outside the big cities, construction is still manual labour - and much of the hard work is done by women, carrying loads of bricks on their backs.

 

Anamika tells us that students are being offered jobs in construction, so that they drop out of school, not realising that these employment opportunities will terminate upon the completion of construction, leaving them without the necessary education to enter the very competitive (and mostly based on scholarships for those who can't afford it) secondary education sector. Childreach Nepal strives to get these students back into school and also lobbies with the construction companies not to employ students.

 

After the earthquake, CRN was commissioned to help with the reconstruction of 12 schools; they had received financial support through Childreach International and international individual donors. The goal is to rebuild 100 classrooms, 86 of which have already been completed. CRN works closely together with the schools to construct the new classrooms according to their needs in terms of size and equipment.

 

That evening at the hotel, the football3 rules for the upcoming tournament are eagerly discussed among the youth leaders. The group decides on the fixed rules for the games and writes them up in detail on two large sheets of paper to be pinned to the wall at the tournament. The additional rules will be decided upon by the players before the game. Roles are assigned before traditional Dhal Bhat dinner is served and everyone retires to their rooms.

 

THIRD DAY: FOOTBALL3 TOURNAMENT IN BHAKTAPUR

 

The following day in Bhaktapur greets us with sunshine and heat – challenging circumstances for the planned tournament. We are up early to join the preparation of the field. Miraculously, the dusty pitch is being transformed into two football3 fields just with the help of some quickly purchased charcoal and a few cones. The participants arrive and are divided into mixed teams by their youth mentors. 

 

During the semi-finals and finals, the crowd of students erupt in never-ending choruses and at the end the lucky winner, 2nd and third placed teams receive their trophies. But, as is usual at a football3 tournament, the biggest trophy is received by the team that wins the Fair Play Award.

 

FOURTH DAY: RETURN TO KATHMANDU

 

Back in Kathmandu, we welcome representatives from the other Nepali organisation supported by the German Federal Foreign Office funding programme, Lalitpur Sports Training Centre. The two organisations had previously met at the kick-off workshop held by streetfootballworld in India.

 

LSTC teamed up with streetfootballworld network member Mifalot to add a social component to their training. The decision was taken to focus on disability, as a topic that is still taboo in Nepal. “The exercises are an eye-opener for the children,” Naresh Byanjankar from LSTC explains. “On the one hand, they now know what it means to play with a disability, but on the other hand they have also experienced THAT it is possible to play football even with a disability.” LSTC hope to introduce the curriculum at many youth clubs across the country.

 

Both organisations compare notes about their projects and it becomes clear that there is ripe potential for collaboration with Childreach Nepal that represents the side of social work side and LSTC bringing in the football expertise. We hope that this meeting will spark further exchange in the future.

 

On this last day, we take a moment to reflect upon our visit and all of the positive impressions we have gathered. While football might not be very strong in Nepal (the country’s FIFA ranking is 173 of 211), football for good seems to have strong potential. Football won’t rebuilt the houses that were destroyed by the earthquake, but it can help to create a future society, where students don’t have to work at construction sites and girls are not sent abroad to work due to lacking opportunities in their own country. Both of the organisations we met have developed a replicable intervention model, one for schools and one for clubs, which could help to spread the approach to the rest of the country.

 

On the way to the airport, a giant football on a pillar comes into view – nobody knows what it stands for. We take it as the final sign that football for good is literally being put on a pedestal in Nepal.

 

This is an abridged version of an article that appeared in the Third Issue of FOOTBALL4GOOD magazine. Click here and turn to page 30 to read the full story.