Breaking Barriers : Mathematical Intelligence

September 28, 2013 , by Supriya Rai, Leave your thoughts
Breaking Barriers : Mathematical Intelligence » My Dreams Mag

If the Nepali youths were to be rescued from the desperate grip of deprivation and social stagnation, education was the way to do it. But first there needed to be a radical shift in the way we educated our kids. 


Bloom Nepal is the brainchild of Ram K. Rijal, MIT graduate, who decided unlike many other young immigrants to turn his back on the American dream and to return to his country to make a difference on home ground. He is one of the handful of fresh graduates, the new wave of modern optimists, willing to brave the political and economic uncertainties of Nepal.


Bloom Nepal School

Launched in April 15, 2012, Bloom Nepal is the first in a network of 8 schools that Rijal aims to establish over the next 18 years. The long term vision is to create centres for academically promising students where, on top of regular curriculum, they can receive specialized education in their chosen stream. It is hoped that by doing so, children with special talent in a particular faculty will receive the right nurturing, guidance and support to excel in it. To begin with, Bloom’s base of operations in Ekantakuna will be focusing on Science and Maths. Eventually, they wish to grow to include Humanities and Arts too.

To appreciate the inspiration behind this school, one must learn of the journeys of its founders. Rijal, an academically gifted child, was plucked out of the remote hills of Rukum and placed into the rigorous system of Budhanilkantha School in Kathmandu, through their merit-based scholarship scheme. That is where he met Rabindra Shrestha, the current administrator of Bloom.


Blooms Nepal School

Shrestha, his loyal friend and partner in crime, recalls proudly, “When Ram first came into the school, he didn’t even know the English alphabets. It was tough for him in the beginning, but by the second term he started to catch on.”

The promising student from Rukum went on to win a Pestolozzi Scholarship for International Baccalaureate Diploma in the UK, followed by another full scholarship for Bachelors in Mathematics and Economics at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His experiences at such brilliant educational institutes became the building blocks for Bloom Nepal; for the differences between the developed and the developing became all too glaringly and painfully obvious for him there.

Like his peer, Rabindra Shrestha too went on to excel academically. The 25 yr old casually lets it escape that he was the valedictorian of his graduating class–having studied Accounting & Financing from St. Peter’s University in the U.S. – and that he worked at Goldman Sachs before he followed Rijal to Nepal.

When posed the question as to why both of them passed on what could have been lucrative careers with financial rewards unmatched here, the twosome reflect similar ideologies. Through similar experiences they both came to the conclusion that the education system in Nepal needed a re-hauling.

When all his peers at MIT were breaking new ground with innovation and entrepreneurship, Rijal sadly reflects that most Nepali youths were burning tires and chanting political slogans for the highest bidder.

Shrestha chimes that most of his colleagues at Goldman Sachs had degrees in sciences and maths: corporate houses didn’t care so much for the faculty as much as for the reasoning ability, diligence and intelligence of the candidates.


Blooms Nepal School

The trick, I learned, was to be very very good at something. Be it sciences, maths, or any other faculty: one should focus on mastering one sphere rather than taking the, as is standard in Nepal, jack-of-all-trades approach to education.”

So if the Nepali youths were to be rescued from the desperate grip of deprivation and social stagnation, education was the way to do it. But first there needed to be a radical shift in the way we educated our kids.

Insert Bloom Nepal – the pioneer and champion of these reforms.

Today Rijal works as a Data Analyst for World Bank during the week, and a teacher at Bloom on the weekends. His salary, he explains, provides a much needed cash-infusion to the administrative costs of the school. Shrestha on the other hand, works full-time at the school: he is a teacher, administrator, and caretaker to his 20 odd students.

The plan is to expand their intake to 200 students next year. For a school dependent heavily on volunteers and founders with less than a year’s experience under their belt, it certainly seems reaching. But young as they are, they argue that they have an experienced group of advisors, who offer them expert guidance and access to their exclusive network, ensuring that Bloom not only accelerates towards its goal but reaches there in style.

Undoubtedly, it will be a few more years until we can perceive and pass judgment on the success of their vision, but the Bloom Team exude such infectious optimism and absolute conviction that one cannot help but feel their success is assured.

Until then, Bloom continues with its directional efforts; the first ever Nationwide Mathematics Olympiad for high-school students was organized by the school on February 23rd, 2013. A three- hour long test was carried out in 7 cities with around 400 participants turning up. The questionnaire was really tough, which the organizers admit were designed to both frustrate and fascinate the students in equal measure. Powered by Siddhartha Bank, Dish Home and Norvic Education, the event concluded with Aditya Agrawal of Rai School claiming the first cash prize of Rs.50000. Isha Upreti and Prabin Mandal of Caribbean College claimed the second and third prizes respectively of Rs. 30000 and Rs. 20000.

Blooms Nepal School

Apart from promoting Mathematics and the perks of being a Mathlete, the competition also served to shed light on issues in the current state of education in Nepal. Female participation peaked at a mere 9.1%, whereas students from outside the valley made up a meager 20% of the competition.

As educators we need to question the reasons behind these statistics, and reflect on how we may, in our capacities, work to change it.”

The second Nationwide Mathematics Olympiad is soon set to bring in a new array of math enthusiasts together. Ram hopes that the competition this time around will reach a bigger audience and capture the imagination of Math nerds from all corners of the country. He emphasizes that not only will it be a platform to uncover talented mathematicians; winners could potentially reap from Bloom’s network the most coveted opportunities available to deserving students.

As Rijal and Shrestha converse during a lull in the interview, while reaching for another piece of cut fruit on the table, their maturity and level headedness for once is replaced by a certain boyishness and carefree suspension. Soon they will need to put their big-boy hats on and correct home works, devise course plans, convince parents why they should send their talented child to Bloom of all schools, talk to potential donors about the importance of their work, perhaps even have a heated conversation with their disappointed parents on why they won’t be packing up to leave for paychecks in Dollars anytime soon.

They are all too aware of the magnitude of their undertaking at Bloom; compelled were they though, to answer the call of duty, by their educated and moral conscience. The two friends will stay behind until late tonight, like every other night, to catch up on work, and there won’t be so much as a pause to consider what might have been. No. The priorities have been set and commitments have been made. They are both united in their vision.

But while the lull lasts, before their suspended reality comes raining down on them and sends them scampering away from the fruits back to their important jobs – Let them eat Apples. In peace. 

Connect at Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bloomnepal



Text By: Supriya Rai 
Images: Blooms Nepal

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