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Teacher training in the Indian Himalayas

I never thought there would be a moment in my life that I would miss my universal sink plug. I hadn’t heard of such a thing before my deployment to India, and I felt a bit awkward when I bought it last-minute in a London outdoor shop. However, since a couple of weeks ago, all the water pipes in the Kashmiri region Ladakh have been frozen and so I’m dealing with buckets of water to wash, flush the toilet and shower. My sink plug has proven to be a crucial tool in my daily washing ritual. And now that I miss it I can conclude that it’s one of the best gadgets ever.

I just arrived in Kargil, a small Muslim town near the border with Pakistan, on a seven-hour drive from my base in Leh, the capital of the Ladakh region. I’m tired and dirty and crave a hot shower, or at least a bucket of hot water. Our journey through the Indian Himalayas was amazing but not without some adventure. An hour after we departed from Leh, a fountain of fluorescent green cooling water exploded from the front of the car covering the whole car with sticky green liquid. Fortunately we weren’t far from home and with the help of some friends we repaired the broken rubber pipe and continued our journey with oily hands and only one hour’s delay, the rest of our way enjoying the stunning mountain views.

My hotel room is clean and spacious, but cold as ice. For now I leave the dirt on my face and hands and install myself in front of the gas heater. Tomorrow I will facilitate my third and last two-day teacher training before our Winter Education project starts. In the larger towns of Ladakh, winter education is a common activity; daily classes during the cold months of January and February when regular schools are closed. This year Save the Children supports winter education in 13 remote villages around Leh and Kargil for children who missed out on quality education in the weeks and months after the flash floods in early August.  By supporting 18 winter tuition centres in the more remote areas, Save the Children aims to stimulate quality education and stop children from being sent to government boarding schools in Leh that are often of poor quality, and result in children being separated from their families. On our way to Kargil we passed several villages in which winter tuition will take place, some still heavily damaged by the floods.

On the two following days I conduct Child Protection training for ten teachers and four staff members of our partner organisation in Kargil. The training will help teachers to create a safe school environment for their students. Through topics like children’s rights, child abuse and child protection, the participants, all men, learn what their role is in keeping children safe in school. We talk about how teachers should behave with children, which groups of children are more vulnerable for abuse and what steps teachers should take when a child reports abuse. The next day we discuss issues like discrimination and physical punishment in schools – common issues in Ladakh – and we practise alternative ways of positive disciplining. All teachers are very enthusiastic about what they’ve learned and they keep repeating that all teachers – no, all communities! – in Kargil should have more knowledge on children’s rights and protection. A great result of my training. I’m thankful to work with these enthusiastic and motivated teachers who will be doing such important work in remote, mountainous and freezing villages this winter.

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