Action for Karuna is a project of solidarity initiatives whose flagship week will take place this year from 24 to 31 May. Everyone can propose a project and raise funds for Karuna. For this 4th edition, donations will be used to support our new Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme – “Better Education for a Better Life”.
Early Childhood in Nepal
It is recognised that the early childhood period – from 0 to 6 years – is the prime time for the cognitive, social, physical and emotional development of children. Studies show that when children are provided with an age-appropriate learning environment from the earliest stages of their lives, they thrive and demonstrate strong learning abilities throughout their lives. Curiously, kindergarten education seems to be the forgotten one in Nepal, as it was only in 2016 that Nepal officially recognised it as part of the country’s free and compulsory basic education.
While the number of kindergartens is growing, the quality of education is not yet up to the expected standards. As with other levels of education in Nepal, there is a gap between private and public schools. The cost of public schools is a major barrier to attendance and the quality of education offered in public schools is questionable due to the lack of adequate infrastructure and facilities – both in terms of teaching materials and access to toilets and clean water.
Finally, it is also the qualified and fully present teaching staff that is lacking: neither trained nor really monitored by the Nepalese National Education, the underpaid teachers responsible for several classes at the same time are not able to supervise and accompany the children in good conditions.
Supporting teachers, parents and children
Karuna-Shechen initiated a new programme for early childhood in 2021 in the districts of Sindhuli and Kavre in Nepal.
It is composed of three main areas of intervention: training and monitoring of teachers, renovation and equipment of infrastructure and finally awareness raising of parents. These three components allow for the transmission of a joyful and caring environment for the development of each child.
As mentioned above, one of the main challenges of pre-school education is the technical and up-to-date training of teachers. In March 2021, 17 kindergarten teachers from Sindhuli and Kavre districts received a 12-day basic training on early childhood development, covering various topics such as child rights, child development, national minimum standard, six areas of learning, nutrition, hygiene and sanitation, etc. They also learnt how to make games and how to use them in the classroom. They also learnt how to make games and toys from locally available resources, in order to promote the development of motor and physical skills of the youngest children.
Parents are at the heart of their children’s education, yet they do not always know how to create an environment at home where their children can thrive in their learning and development. Karuna is therefore offering a 5-day parenting course for teachers to enable them to raise awareness and encourage parents to create a learning environment at home.
To ensure that children receive quality education, the programme also aims to create library corners in classrooms, which are non-existent in most rural schools in Nepal. It is also an opportunity for students to have books and additional materials to get a more complete education.
Discover one of the schools supported this year
The Bhedikhor village kindergarten is located in the Sindhuli district. Isolated and wedged between the mountains, it is located on a slope too steep for the children to really enjoy an outdoor space and play freely. Until a few years ago, this school did not exist: it was created on the initiative of the villagers, who decided to build it when they realised that the children had to walk for hours to get to the nearest school! At first it was just a shed made of steel sheets. Lacking basic facilities, drinking water, toilets and equipment, Bhedikhor will be one of the kindergartens equipped and renovated this year by Karuna. In the meantime, the new teacher, Bhim Maya Sunuwar, is bringing cushions and bottles of drinking water for the children from her home.
After finishing her 1st year (high school) in 2011, Bhim Maya Sunuwar stopped school to take care of her three children. Ten years later, we offered her the opportunity to participate in the 12-day kindergarten teacher training.
It was the first time I participated in such a training. I am glad that I was able to learn the things that our mothers forgot to teach us about child development.
You can contribute to this programme to improve the lives of
children, teachers and parents in Nepal.