Re-Investing in Learning
What started out as a language school in a single room is now a community of teachers working with a new approach to community-based learning.
In 2011, VHS was a German language school that started out from a single desk. With steady growth, in a month’s time, the office grew from a desk in an office in Bhaktapur to a single room. Three months later it opened its first office in Dudhpati with two classes and two office rooms. With consistent growth, in January 2013, the organization decided to make a strategic shift in direction.
They decided to move towards the concept of Volkshochschule, a community learning center usually found in countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where everybody, who knows something in the community, has a platform to teach it to others.
“VHS doesn’t sell education, rather we are a social business trying to come up with services with high impact by serving NGOs and engaging people who want to change their environment,” says Saroj Bastola, the CEO.
Every second week they open VHS to those who are interested in showing educational movies and having talk programs. Besides this, VHS conducts its own classes and training programs, which are built with practical orientation in mind. Besides the founders, the VHS team includes motivated youngsters and freshmen from school as volunteers.
The major income comes from German Language and related products and the Volunteer & Expat-related services. The training rooms and halls also help VHS generate revenue. However, being a social business, all the income earned is reinvested in the organization in different ways.
Firstly, they invest in improving infrastructures, like buying new furniture, laptops and printers, so the team can have a good and efficient working environment. Secondly, they invest in people—hosting interns and employing freshmen, and also in developing new services and educational products.
Normally, they host between two to four Nepali and international interns, who then get engaged in special projects. “From the beginning we have been working with international interns and it has helped the students to gain multicultural perspectives tremendously,” says Sapkota.
They have also been running programs for expats and volunteers, from Nepali language classes to special weekends for foreigners who are new in Nepal and are looking to understand the social structures, along with the day to day activities as part of living in Nepal. Currently, they are working on launching other soft skill training programmes like project management, workshops for graduates and CV writing for the school students.
With these efforts VHS Bhaktapur is working to build a sustainable model of community-based learning center to facilitate collective growth of the community. “Whenever we identify a gap in education, we start working to come up with a solution to fill the gap,” says Sapkota.