An Interview with NELTA President Mr. Hemanta Raj Dahal
Madhukar: Could you share with us your linguistic, academic, and professional background/journey? How did you become interested in becoming an educator, especially a teacher of English?
President: Before I went to the school, I was monolingual – just speaking Nepali. I became interested to learn English after I passed SLC exam in 2033. With a little idea and career plan, I took up English as a major subject during which fear of achieving academic degree in English was inevitable. I started teaching after SLC and continued after Intermediate, Bachelor and Master degrees. Taking up English was a matter of pride and prestige both. During my experience as a teacher while mingling with other fellow colleagues, I realized that only becoming myself a good teacher would not suffice for quality teaching of English in my community and vicinity. I should wait until my students would become an English teacher. I, therefore, shifted from a classroom teacher to the teacher educator where I should be able to develop hundreds of classroom teachers. My dream came true after I joined NELTA.
Madhukar: Would you highlight the status of some of the achievements of NELTA during your tenure? How successful has NELTA been in helping Nepal government in its mission to promote quality education through ELT? How has it been collaborating with other various stakeholders i.e., the U.S. Embassy, British Council in this regard?
President: NELTA, as a voluntary association is not only creating opportunities but it is also equally coping with the challenges. The growth of NELTA has extended its services and opportunities across the country in the mass scale, one the one hand, and on the other, the escalated aspiration of its members has become equally demanding to be addressed. I don’t want to demarcate the tenure of my presidency and the previous ones because the long history and legacy of the association has a meaningful transfer of the leadership. I can only say that I am one of the luckiest presidents to be able to devote almost full times of mine for NELTA.
As far as the our role to assist the mainstream education of Nepal is concerned, we have already reviewed the policy documents of the Government of Nepal with regards to the scope of English language in the government policies. This can be claimed one of the key documents to help identify the role of English in the academia. We would like to disseminate this document among the key stakeholders, including Ministry of Education. NELTA has already shaped its way through English Access Microscholarship and English by Radio programs sponsored by the US Government, and ETTE+ sponsored by the British Council entirely focused on the mainstream education. NELTA has excellent collaboration and relationship with the Ministry of Education, US Embassy, and the British Council.
Madhukar: How can NELTA contribute more rigorously on various issues in the field of ELT?
President: NELTA would like to continue its regular activities, on the one hand, and on the other, it is exploring the scope where it can accommodate the researchers as well. However, more importantly, we shouldn’t forget that the focus of NELTA should remain as an association to enhance professional development of the English teachers and trainers so that we can see positive impact in the classrooms.
Madhukar: The sustainability of a professional association/institution lies on its dedicated professional members/volunteers. What has NELTA been doing so far to enhance professionalism of its members/volunteers/prospective future leaders?
President: My understanding is that leadership cannot be achieved over night. Giving my example, I worked for 12 years in different positions in the central committee before I became President. The leadership positions demand considerable voluntary times and energy, which doesn’t allow many aspirant members to take up the responsibility. Leadership to me should not only be dependent to the others but it should also have motivation, dedication and selflessness. NELTA is ready to groom such leadership.
Madhukar: How do you consider for future possibility of NELTA for collaboration with TESOL and IATEFL?
President: You must have realized that NELTA is the affiliate member organization to TESOL and IATEFL both, with a foundation for collaboration. We have been encouraging the members of NELTA to participate in the activities organized by these two international associations, including in the annual international conferences. Furthermore, we are looking for possibilities how we can further partner for the benefit of our members.
Madhukar: How do you think NELTA ELT FORUM adheres with the NELTA’s goals and mission and contribute to promoting professional development of its members/volunteers?
President: First of all, please allow me to congratulate those life members who came up with the idea to commence NELTA ELT FORUM as an official blog. I believe, this blog will be and should be a common platform for all members of NELTA and interested ELT professionals and contributors giving them opportunities to express their experiences, views, and suggestions. I would suggest the editorial team to create such an atmosphere so that the entire NELTA community will take its ownership. The executive committee will always remain supportive to such endeavors for the benefit of NELTA community at large.
Madhukar: Since its inception in 1992, NELTA has now grown huge with 42 branches in total from Illam in the East to Kanchanpur in the Far west with lot of aspirations of its members/volunteers? Has NELTA been planning to spread all over the map?
President: NELTA central committee doesn’t persuade to the ELT professionals to set up the branches. Instead, we would like to see the interest of grassroots ELT professionals to come up with a proposal for setting up the branches because we believe on the bottom-up approach rather than the top-down. Therefore, the stake of the branches will remain with the local professionals. The central committee will certainly facilitate and support to set up the branches in all 75 districts in the country if the bottom-up proposals are received.
The branches of NELTA are the blood and heart of the association and they are instrumental to reach the association in the grassroots. Their continuous toil is praiseworthy and I hope to see this in the future too. We are ready to strengthen their capacity within the resources available and possible access to the resources.
(Mr. Madhukar K.C is an editorial member of NELTA ELT Forum)