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LEKHA SHANKAR


An exchange of Film News, from Thailand, India and other film-spaces across the world.

 


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Rivetting Spanish Movie on Real-Life Spanish teacher, in Nepal

 

Arresting Movie on Real-Life Spanish Teacher in Nepal

“ The film romanticized my life, which was much tougher in actuality!”

 

An arresting movie called "Kathmandu, A mirror in the sky", by noted Spanish Director Iciar Bollain, was made on an amazing real-life Spanish teacher in Nepal, starring talented actress Veronica Echegui, who won many awards for her performance.

The film  was screened at  Bangkok recently, in the presence of the real-life Spanish teacher, Victoria Subbirana. Victoria still lives in Kathmandu, and is involved in the massive rehabilitation work in the country, after the devastating earthquake last year.

The dynamic Spanish teacher has lived in Nepal for nearly two decades, and done phenomenal work to improve the educational levels of the poor, underprivileged kids of the country.

She is proud of the unique educational curriculum she created for Nepal, called ‘Pedagogy for Transformation’ which is being implemented in many schools, and is supported by both the Nepal and Spanish Govts.

But it had not been an easy task at all. The Spanish teacher faced huge opposition from conservative groups and local communities, when she first landed in Nepal. So, guess what she did? Marry a local Sherpa man, and then start her own school! She ran this successfully for 20 years.

Excepts from an Interview,in Bangkok.

Why were you so keen to work in Nepal?

During a trip to Nepal in 1988, I visited the Monkey Temple, and got this vision to help the poor children of the country. When I returned to Spain and told my mother this, she thought I was crazy, and took me to a psychiatrist! And so began my journey of loneliness. The word ‘NGO’ was not known at that time`. I returned to Nepal, and enrolled as a Volunteer-teacher in a Tibetan refugee school. With my Education-degree, I soon ensured that my kindergarten - kids were better than the fifth-graders in other schools! That was when I realized that Nepal was my mission in life.

Why did you marry a Nepali man?

My tourist visa ran out, and the wonderful Nawar family who cared for me, decided that I must marry a local man, so that I could stay on in the country. The news spread that a local Sherpa was marrying a foreigner, and the wedding attracted as many as 2000 people! My family, as also the Mayor of Spain, flew down for the marriage. There was a lot of curiosity about me, I partook in many TV shows, got paid for them, and used the money to fulfill my dream of starting my own school in Kathmandu. Tell us more about your school in Nepal. I started my own ‘Daleki School’ in 1993, with funds from Spain. It had excellent facilities, and I ran it for 20 years, with as many as 1500 students and a staff of 160people! I made sure that all the students got jobs, when they passed out, and did not beg on the streets again.

hat about the educational curriculum that you created for Nepal? I

had an Educational degree from Barcelona Varsity, and after that, did a Master’s degree in ‘Curriculum and Teaching’ from Michigan Varsity, USA. But I realized that what I learned in the West, would not work in Nepal. I watched the students closely, did a lot of research, and developed my own teaching curriculum for them, called ‘Pedagogy for Transformation’ According to the Nepali beliefs, one could not change one’s family, religion, vocation. I started a new course called ‘Mental Maturity’ and told them that even a child’s mind could be trained, and that they needed to think for themselves.

What were the problems you faced?

I faced a lot of problems from the community, including casteism, social and gender inequalities. I learnt from my Nepali friends that the social systems could not be changed easily-like in India. I myself had to resign from my school, when I came across various cases of corruption and nepotism.

Please give details of your current educational projects in Nepal.

I have opened up ‘Govt Educational Reform Projects’ in many schools on the border area with India, where there are large numbers of refugees and deprived children. I work with District Location officers, and am being supported by both the Spanish and Nepali Govts. Were you affected by the recent earthquake? During the first earthquake, I was in Spain, and managed to get a lot of funds for the Nepali victims. But during the second earthquake, I was caught in the thick of it. I was in the Shindhu Palchok area, where every house was destroyed! I’m lucky I survived. I’m now totally involved in the rehabilitation work. I started an orphanage for the kids who lost their parents, and have been collecting funds from around the world, through my ‘EduQual Foundation’. I will never leave Nepal, as that’s become my second home.

How is the rehabilitation work progressing, in Nepal?

There are a lot of communication and logistic problems. And now that the rainy season is on, the work has slowed down even more. It will take many years for the rehabilitation work to be completed in the country. What we need immediately are tents, so that the kids can get back to their academics, since all the schools have been destroyed.

Are you proud that a film has been made about your life?

Yes, ofcourse, but the film romanticized my life, which was much tougher in actuality! However, if the film can inspire people to do good for others, to believe in what they do, and to do it with passion, commitment and perseverance, I’ll be fulfilled. That’s what my Life has been all about.

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About LEKHA SHANKAR

SHANKAR LEKHA

I'm an Indian film-writer, based in Bangkok, and write for publications in India & Thailand. I also coordinate and curate film programs in the two countries, at cultural centres/clubs, film festivals.


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