Aug 25, 2016

Two low-cost interventions that can significantly improve education in Nepal

A few months back, King's College had organized a close group discussion on improving education in Nepal. I was one of the attendees of the discussion. I had talked about two things that I thought were very important in improving the education scenario in Nepal, especially on an institutional level. I believe these two initiatives alone if implemented sincerely, can significantly improve students' receptiveness towards education and equip them with practical and sellable skills that Nepal's labour market is desperately looking for. As I reflected back on those ideas later on, I have come to believe that, they are in fact very cost effective and can be easily implemented by educational institutions without significant additional financial burden. Of course, education is a complex subject and improving it requires multifaceted interventions but these two ideas could be a start:

1. Answering WHY?

I read somewhere, "a person who knows how will always have a job and the person who knows why will always be the boss". I have found it to be true. The majority of our students, however, especially the ones who haven't had exposure to non-academic education/training, don't know the answer to the why question. Most of them don't know why they are studying a particular subject. A guy is studying BBA because his parents told him to or that it seemed like the only logical option after high school. A girl is studying B.Sc. because she took science in her high school and it seemed like the only perfect alternative. It is rare to find a Nepali student who knows what he/she wants to be in life and why he/she is studying a particular subject. Naturally, when you don't know why you are doing something it is very difficult to get excited about the task. No wonder, most of our students are half dead with boredom. Education institutions can change this scenario by reaching out to students and helping them figure out the answer to this question. Career counselling should be an integral part of education. Students should be assisted to figure out why they are studying a particular subject and what its logical end would be. 

"You should study BBA if you are excited by businesses, by entrepreneurship."
"You should study LLB if debates, logical thinking, sense of fairness excite you."
"If lending a helping hand kindles joy in you, Social Work is the subject you are looking for."

If the students are clear on why I think other positives attributes will follow naturally.

2. Reading Habit

The importance of reading habit cannot be overstated. From Bill Gates, Warren Buffet to Barack Obama, every person who aspires to achieve something great, to lead needs to read. Reading habit not only develops a positive mindset in a person but also opens numerous roads to knowledge and self-growth. Personally, reading habit has been the most valuable habit that I have developed in life. It has turned me into an ever curious and self-reliant person. In the current world, where everything is changing so rapidly and every profession is having to relearn, redefine and reinvent itself, reading habit (and thereby self-learning) is becoming more important than ever.  Unfortunately, reading habit among Nepalese, in general, is very low. Except for the handful of elite schools, no educational institution has the development of reading habit integrated into their curriculum. At least, my school didn't have. The books in the library were there for decoration and weren't supposed to be borrowed.

Therefore, educational institutions (even the higher level education institutions) should design and implement programmes to develop reading habit in their students. They should make sure that the library is utilized to the fullest capacity possible and that their students read beyond their course books. 

Well, those were my two points. I think both of them are very cost-effective and easily implementable for an educational institution. What do you think? Are there any others ideas that can be as effective in your view? Please share!

Jul 6, 2016

Some Interesting Facts About Nepal

About a year ago, my company Onion Films Nepal had produced a video about some persistent myths/misperceptions surrounding Nepal and the facts. We had been able to find out some pretty interesting facts (beyond the usual facts that many of us know). The video was well-received with over a million views on differents platforms and websites. I am sharing the video here, just in case you haven't watched it already. If you like the video, please share it with your network.

Mar 26, 2016

Yojana Park: Hayek Comes to Nepali Theatre

Photo by: Ajay Ranabhat
It is my great pleasure to tell you that I have finally been able to overcome my laziness and procrastination to write a post in my blog after a hiatus of almost 10 months and that for the first time in Nepal, a play promoting ideas of liberty is being performed in a theater. I am also happy to report that I was involved in the writing, refining and rehearsal process of this play albeit in a minor role. 

The play "Yojana Park" which is being performed in Mandala Theatre currently, is based on the ideas presented by F.A. Hayek in his book "The Road to Serfdom". It was written and adapted to Nepali context by Suresh Sapkota and directed by Buddhi Tamang. This is his first work as a theater director. Yojana Park is the story of a family consisting of seven members (Six brothers and a widow) with different dreams of their own. As reflective of the members of the Nepalese society, however, all of them expect the government to help them achieve their dreams. From free goodies to favorable policies, they want it all and rest their hopes on the government for their well-being. But unlike Nepal, they actually get a chance to vote an authoritarian government into power and turn their wishful desire of a strong, pervasive state into a reality. Chaos ensues.

The Road to Serfdom had created a huge controversy and uproar when it was first published in 1945. Hayek's argument that all forms of collectivism eventually lead to tyranny was especially controversial. Many ridiculed Hayek's prediction while some were openly hostile to the book and did their best to stop it from spreading. The book encountered huge challenges in getting published by a mainstream publisher in the US. But as I would argue, history has vindicated Hayek and his warnings. Britain before Thatcher and India before 1990 show us how the states can go tyrannical and run people's lives even in democracies.

To a casual observer, Nepal may seem like a country on the opposite spectrum than what Hayek is talking about in his book and therefore, hardly a society that would appreciate his warnings. Yojana Park, however, makes sufficient ground and context for the ideas to make them relevant in the context of Nepal. It is a brilliant depiction of what our clamor for a strong, authoritarian government could eventually result in if we were not careful enough about what we wish for. To a drama aficionado, Yojana Park may not be much of a remarkable viewing as the drama falls short in artistic value and sense when compared to other recent dramas and the cast of the drama is relatively new. But to a person, seeking intellectual discourse through arts and to anyone seeking to watch ideals of liberty in a theatrical expression, the play is a must watch. I can hardly remember any other Nepali drama that deliberated on ideas as much as this one. I am very happy to see Hayek coming to Nepali theatre and hope that it is just the beginning.

[The drama is being performed at Mandala Theatre, Anamnagar everyday at 5:15 pm (except Mondays) until April 10, 2016.]

Jun 23, 2015

Story of an entrepreneur: Aashish Adhikari of Red Mud Coffee

Despite myriads of coffee shops and restaurants vying for customers' attention in Kathmandu valley, one coffee shop has been able to make a distinct name for itself in a short span of time. Red Mud coffee, established by Mr. Aashish Adhikari has quickly grown into two outlets and has been able to developed a loyal customer base. The company was also among the ten companies selected in the business acceleration program of Rockstart Impact and managed to be the first among them to receive an investment from a venture capitalist. How did Red Mud came into being? How did the idea originate and how did a wish turn into reality? Mr. Aashish Adhikari, the founder of the coffee chain shares the story of his entrepreneurial journey in this video below. (The video was taken during Uddhyami Junction organized by Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) Nepal on April 9, 2015.) Enjoy!!

May 31, 2015

Read Road to Serfdom in Nepali for free

“Dashatwa ko Bato” is the Nepali translation  of the book “Road to Serfdom” written by Nobel Laureate economist F. A. Hayek. The book was published towards the end of Second World War cautioning about the increasing role of the state and domination of central planning of different aspects of people's lives even in the  then democracies like United Kingdom and United States of America. Hayek had cautioned that the expansion of role of state during war times was likely to continue after the war too and would eventually end up creating slaves out of general public. The book generated a huge debate in the political discourse of the Western countries at that time.

I had published the Nepali version of the book's cartoons in my blog. The post is still among the most popular posts in my blog. And now, Samriddhi, The Prosperity Foundation, the publisher of the Nepali version of the book has decided to make the book free to read and download. I think this is a great opportunity to read one of the most prominent books championing liberty. So enjoy!!

Apr 3, 2015

Laser Eye Surgery in Nepal : Things You Need to Know

On October 21, 2014, after having worn glasses/contact lenses for almost 15 years, I finally
underwent a laser surgery (Refractive Surgery) for both of my eyes. I have been enjoying this new found freedom for almost 6 months now. Till date, once in a while I just look in the mirror and feel so good that the clear reflection I see of myself is devoid of any glasses or contact lenses. It would be quite difficult for people who have never worn powered glasses to comprehend the joy of getting rid of glasses. Only people who have gone through their lives feeling so dependent on glasses, feeling inadequate at even small moments in life such as rushing to find your glasses the moment you wake up, having a difficult time playing any sports for the fear of breaking your glasses, having a difficult time at the swimming pool would understand how great it feels to be free. 

Anyway, to come back to the objective of this post, ever since I went through the surgery, I have been receiving many calls from friends and acquaintances asking about the surgery. They usually want to know where I got the surgery, how much does it cost, if the quality in Nepal is good enough, how long does it take to recover and most of all: if the doctors will do some kind of check up before the actual surgery to ensure if it is suitable for their eyes. Based on my experience, I have already advised about a dozen people. Then I thought many other people might also want to know these things. So I have decided to present my readers this set of frequently asked questions about laser eye surgery in Nepal. I hope this helps.

1. Is it possible to do laser eye surgery in Nepal?
Of course. Tilganga Insitute of Opthalmology (TIO) has a ultra-modern Refractive Surgery Unit that can perform both LASIK and ReLEx SMILE surgeries and correct myopia (near-sightedness) and hypermetropia (far-sightedness). I don't think other hospitals in Nepal have such facility currently.

2. What are LASIK and ReLEx SMILE?
Just the name of the two technologies used. ReLEx SMILE is the latest one and better one but is more expensive than LASIK. At Tilganga both technologies are available and the surgeon decides which technology is more suited for you depending upon your eyes. They charge the same amount for both technologies.

3. How much does it cost?
At the time of my surgery, it cost NRs. 75,000 for both eyes. The total cost including pre-surgery check up and medicines would come to around NRs. 80,000. The cost could have gone up slightly now. Still the cost is relatively very cheaper than similar surgeries in other hospitals of Nepal and hospitals abroad. I hear it the cost starts from Rs. 200,000 in India. TIO provides discounts for poor and needy people.

4. Who can go through this surgery? What age group? Up to how much power?
The patient has to be above 18 years old. There is no upper limit regarding age. Powers of up to -14 and +6 can be corrected. But one has to go through a series of tests to see if he/she is eligible for the surgery. The doctors at Tilganga are quite fussy about the requirements. In my case, it seemed that they were checking my eyes over and over again. It was quite a  tiring process but comforting to know that they were ensuring safety. I had to even go through a special retina check up before they said yes.

5.What is the procedure? What steps are involved?
You have to call their office and book an appointment for pre-surgery check up. You can call either 977-1-4493775 or 977-1-4493684 to book an appointment but make sure that you mention that you are calling for RSVP or else they might mess up your appointment like they did mine. The check up consists of series of tests on your eyes that determine the dryness of your eyes, thickness of your cornea and the retina. The check lasts for about 4 hours. So be prepared to spend a whole day for the check up. It cost about NRs. 2500 last October. Only if you pass the pre-surgery tests, you can go through the surgery. If you pass the tests, then you can ask for a surgery date. The waiting time in not much long. In my case, it was two weeks.

6.  How much time will the surgery take?
The surgery takes about only 15 minutes  for each eye. That means within half an hour you are done with the surgery of both of your eyes. Then you have to spend 10-15 minutes in another room with your eyes closed. You are visually incapacitated for the rest of the day though as you cannot open your eyes and you have to put in different kinds of drops every 15 minutes and every hour. For me, that was the most exhausting and irritating time.

7. Do they make you unconscious during the surgery? Or do they just anesthetize your eyes? Is it scary?
They just anesthetize your eyes. A tool keeps your eyes wide open preventing your eyelids from shutting. You can see everything. You feel slight irritation while the laser operates in your eyes but it lasts for a very short period of time. Nothing to worry about.

8. How long will it take to get back my normal eyesight?
Your sight is restored immediately after the surgery but it is quite blurry for the whole day. I had tried to watch TV to kill some time after the surgery but failed to do because the vision was too blurry. However, in the next 2-3 days I was able to return to my normal routine except riding my motorbike. You have to keep putting drops of medicines every half hour through the week though. That was a minor inconvenience. But you are not allowed to wash your face properly for a week, a major inconvenience.

9.  What are the risk/potential side effects of the surgery?
They say the risks associated with laser surgeries are almost non-existent. But they do exist. There are two major side-effects though. Dryness and Increased glare. For the next 3 months after the surgery, my eyes would get dry once in a while and I had to put a few teardrops. Teardrops do become your best friend after the surgery. Five months down the line, I still have to use teardrops but rarely. Maybe once in a week. Sometimes once a fortnight. My eyes need teardrops when I use computers for extended period of time. But at other times, my eyes are perfectly fine. Another side effect I witnessed is the increased glare while staring at light sources. This is a minor inconvenience while driving. The glare was large in the early days but returned to normal in about two months after the surgery.

Well, I have answered all the questions usually asked to me. I hope this helps you. If you have any additional queries you can just call or visit TIO. By the way, you can also check out this Avenues TV for more information:

Mar 27, 2015

Story of an entrepreneur: Nischal Tiwari of CricNepal

Started in 2010 with very few resources and manpower, CricNepal today has grown into one of the most popular sports portal of Nepal. Visited by millions of Nepali cricket fans every year, the site is a popular destination for both domestic and international matches. In this video below, Mr. Tiwari shares about why and how he started CricNepal, how it has been doing and what are his plans for the portal in future. The video was taken during Uddhyami Junction, one of the regular programs of Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) - Nepal in which an entrepreneur shares about his or her entrepreneurial journey to students and aspiring young entrepreneurs. Enjoy!