#1: Conversation with Sneedha Mainali – current President of SEBS

This is the first one in the “Conversations with Ayush” series. I wanted to start with Sneedha didi since she is the current President of SEBS. I first knew about her through her posts on the SEBS Facebook group page. She is a dentist at KIST Medical College, where she works with children. Since the conversation series is about talking to BNKS alumni, it seemed only fitting that I start with her.

Me: Thank you for talking to me. Let us start with your background since most of us only know you as the President of SEBS. Maybe some also know you as a doctor, but not much more than that.

Sneedha didi: I was born in Kanpur of Kavre, which is a 2-3 hour ride from Kathmandu. My family came to Kathmandu when I started my schooling. I studied in 7 different schools before coming to BNKS for my O Levels and A Levels. My father got posted to different parts of the country and I changed my schools wherever he went. You know, back then, O Levels used to be a year-long program and A Levels another one-and-half years. I had stayed in a hostel before that. I had never opened my eyes to anything beyond my hostel life and school. Thus, I had not even heard about the BNKS before SLC. I mean most of what I knew about education came from my parents. Having stayed at a hostel and studied in a school which focused mostly on just classroom education, I was handicapped further.

Me: What was your experience at BNKS like?

Sneedha didi: There are two ways of looking at my experience – educational and personal. In terms of education, it was a different planet for me. What I realized was that everyone who got in were at least a top 5 student in their previous school. Also that a student who was at the bottom at BNKS based on their academic performance would easily be a top 5 student anywhere else. From the perspective of personal development, it allowed for my all round development. It prepared me really well for what I was to face later in my life.

Me: When I was at the school, one thing that was generally accepted was that if you wanted to be a doctor, studying 10+2 was the best choice. If you want to go to study abroad, then A Levels would be best. But you studied A Levels and still went on to become a doctor. What is the story behind it?

Sneedha didi: Honestly, I didn’t know the difference. I had no plans on going to the US though, since that is what most students studying A Levels plan to do. During the farewell at school when tokens were handed out, I was named “Miss Nepal” since everyone knew that I was going to stay in Nepal! I guess I was influenced by growing up in a culture where being a doctor was considered prestigious and that stuck with me. An anecdote that I can share on this topic is when I was studying in Nursery, the teacher asked what everyone wanted to be later in life. I was the only one who raised their hand and I answered “mutuko operation garne doctor”.

Doing A Levels was definitely a very good decision for me since it broadened my horizon. It also prepared me really well for what was to come later. For example, I passed my entrance examination at BPKIHS the first time I tried without any preparation while most people undergo months of preparation and try at it at least a couple of times before succeeding. While doing my BDS, I also led various team projects which studying at BNKS had instilled in me.

Me: Now let us move on to the topic of how you started being involved with SEBS.

Sneedha didi: I returned from India in June 2011 after finishing my Masters degree. I used to go for health camps with BNKS alumni while at BPKIHS. Once I started working at KIST Medical College after my masters from India, I found co-workers who were BNKS alumni. Since there were already a couple of doctors at one instution who had gone to BNKS, I decided to find out more. I ended up finding 193 doctors and thus decided to organize a gathering. Around 30 Kathmandu based doctors showed up and we decided that we wanted to start SEBS Medical personnels chapter. We talked with Suresh Acharya, the President of SEBS at that time. The chapter was then started with Dr. Bishwaraj Dawadi as the President. While trying to start the chapter, I also had the chance to have conversations with Dr. Tejsu Malla. During the election for the next ex-comm of SEBS, I went to vote for him as the new President. Meanwhile, I was nominated for a position in the ex-comm and was elected as an Executive Member.

I have always been interested in social work and this was the perfect platform for me to do just that. I also got the chance to get the love of kids at the school especially after the dental health camp organised in September last year. This year in June, I got the chance to be a part of the SEBS Exchange Program and got to travel to the US. It was a leadership program and that further helped me. During this period of involvement with the organization, I felt a serious lack of involvement of female alumni of BNKS with SEBS. I felt I needed to step up and and I thought I can do it. So, I declared my candidacy for the President.

Me: I looked at your Message posted on SEBSOnline.org where you have listed what you want to do over the course of your tenure. Could you please go over those and tell the progress you have made so far?

Ten Past Six has not started with this excomm yet. We will have a discussion and plan the strategy on how to move forward with it soon. We are looking to organize homecoming picnics during either of the school vacations. I organized the event on Teej for female BNKS alumni and it was more of an external event. There is a gap and hesitation between senior and junior alumni. The event was a start and provided a spark for future events. We now have a Facebook group page for just girls and that has added a lot of positivity.

Regarding the National Scholarship Program (NSP), we have formed a committee to investigate and find out what happened within the next 3 months. Previous members of NSP have been suspended. The idea about involvement with the local community in Narayansthan will probably start with the students being involved in conducting events, led by SEBS.

The tennis court at the school has now turned into a dumping site and one of the PE teachers specializes in tennis. Thus, we have formed a committee under Vidhan and Sharad to repair that. We also think that there is a need for teacher evaluations at the end of academic session. We do not have a system for that yet.

Me: I definitely agree with all the programs that you proposed. I also think that teachers evaluation is a must and I hope that you get to implement all those initiatives and more. It took a long time for us to have the first female SEBS President which says a lot about the gender issues in Nepal. What has your experience been with gender issues – in SEBS, as a doctor and perhaps the country as a whole?

Sneedha didi: One simple example – the problem starts in classroom at the school. We all know how bad that is and the problem at my time I saw in the mentality of everyone – both the teachers and the students. There is already a culture of separation of boys and girls where teachers are suspicious if they talk to one another, which is tough. Similarly, the school has not completely metamorphed to a co-ed school. In fear of getting ridiculed in front of their friends, students avoid talking to friends of the opposite gender. But things have definitely improved. On the SEBS level, I am being encouraged by everyone and has been a good experience so far. As a doctor, I do not see any gender issues and it is much easier to work compared to other professions as a female. However, the gender problem is really bad in Nepal. Whatever laws are present for females, if you try fighting for your rights, the law victimizes you so much that it’s better to withdraw at times. Let me say, “its almost a lawless country”. I hope things are going to be far better for generations to come.

Me: Is there anything that you are passionate about? Anything else that you want to mention that I might have missed out?

Sneedha didi: You know I am passionate about children. I also love to travel and want to travel all over Nepal and maybe world some day 😉  I would say 90% of my passion is children and 10% is the rest.

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SEBS has become much more active than they used to be. They are also more transparent, making well use of technology i.e. SEBSOnline and their Facebook page. I feel like we have people in SEBS who actually care about the organization, something that I had not felt before. They are also organizing activities that is helping connect more people.

I am optimistic about where SEBS is heading and having the first female President clearly adds diversity to the team. The SEBS Board has been more active than any other previous boards; or at least they have been successful in communicating what they have been up to. I have started feeling greater affinity towards the organization and I hope that continues in the future. Good luck to Sneedha didi and her team!

PS: Thanks to Semiray Kasoolu for editing it!

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