Name: Chandra Bhandari
Pestalozzi Scholar: 2011-2013
As an economics graduate it doesn’t surprise me when Chandra mentions reading Development as Freedom by the Indian economist Amartya Sen and recalls some of his most salient words:
‘Poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realize one's full potential as a human being.’
Chandra graduated from Pestalozzi in 2013. During his gap year he was an intern at Open Learning Nepal (OLE Nepal), a social benefit organization dedicated to enhancing education quality and access through the integration of technology in classrooms. Chandra went on to study at LSE, through a scholarship specifically for students from Pestalozzi UK, completing his BSc in Social Policy and Economics in 2017.
Since returning to Nepal he has been working as a Research Associate at Evidence for Policy Design (EPoD) at Daayitwa (translated as ‘self-responsibility). The goals of the organisation are to promote inclusive and enterprise-driven economic growth, strengthen governance of public service delivery and to foster resilience in local communities.
Chandra is currently working on a project with The Governance Lab doing research on behalf of faculties at Yale, Stanford and San Diego on ‘Who becomes a politician in Nepal.’ He has spent the last few months travelling to a number of districts, some in remote areas, to interview politicians.
In the evenings after work, Chandra heads to Bloom Nepal School, where he helps with teaching the students and also with their pastoral care. He notes that it can be challenging dealing with some parents!
The Pestalozzi experience clearly made an impact on Chandra. ‘I had guidance and support, but had to navigate through the opportunities and explore what I wanted to do in the future as well as learn to do things independently. I could have ended up doing engineering, but it gave me a chance to make choices as well as exposure to a lot of new things. School in Nepal was big, but in the UK it was an even broader experience.’
Something the alumni often mention is the friendships that they made during their 2 years at Pestalozzi. ‘In those 2 years I made friends for life. Success from Zimbabwe was my roommate and I had the opportunity to meet with him when he was studying in Delhi ’, Chandra shared.
Chandra’s continuing involvement with Bloom Nepal School takes our conversation onto the subject of education. ‘Schools need good management if students are to have the chance to succeed. Lack of opportunity and poverty can be obstacles, but education can activate energy in students to realise that given the opportunity everyone can excel if they work hard.’ He reflects on his peers back in his village in Mugu who are continuing the family tradition of farming and wonders if their lives could have been different if they had only had the same exposure to education that he has had.
We discuss the impact narrative and that it can often take 5-10 years to see the impact of educational opportunities such as those provided by Pestalozzi. Chandra stated, ‘It can take time to equip yourself with the skills needed to set up opportunities for others or to have the means to do so. To donors I would say please keep supporting, because it changes lives. Even though it may take time to see the real impact of what the alumni are doing, you will eventually see the benefit of your contributions’.
In the next year or so Chandra hopes to do a Masters in Public Policy or Administration. It has been a pleasure to spend some time with him and to witness the transformation in this young man since I interviewed him back in February 2011. I still feel the same warmth and sense of humanity emanate from him now as I did then and am sure that he will continue to use his skills and compassion for the continued development of Nepal.