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At a glance: Mongolia

Travelling schools bring education to migrant 'herder children'

© UNICEF video
Travelling preschools work with the nomadic nature of people in rural Mongolia: if the children can’t come to the school, take the school to the students.

By Steve Nettleton

ZAVKHAN, Mongolia, 22 September 2007 – A father reins his camel to a halt and coaxes the animal to bend its legs until its belly rests on the dry earth. His son slides off and with a quick wave goodbye turns and runs to a white felt tent known as a 'ger' – the traditional home in this region.

However, this particular ger is not a home; it is a specially adapted kindergarten for children of herder families who rarely have a fixed residence. Inside, the teacher is showing the young students how to sing a popular folk song.

This travelling preschool is working with the nomadic nature of the people here: if the children can’t come to the school, take the school to the students. This ger travels seven to eight times each year, bringing education within the reach of families far from town.

Preschool is a rare luxury in rural western Mongolia, where nomadic families migrate with their herds several times each year, often settling far from any town. Only about 54 per cent of Mongolian children receive any form of early childhood education.

© UNICEF video
A white felt tent known as a 'ger' which traditionally serves as a home in rural Mongolia. This ger is being used as a UNICEF-supported travelling school.

Mobile schooling for mobile families

“Compared to the fixed kindergartens, this form is more convenient. It provides much needed early childhood education for very young children because it suits the lifestyle of the herder families in the area,” said a teacher named Badamragchaa.

UNICEF supports an effort to improve access to education in rural western Mongolia, where enrolment is lower than most of the country, and drop out rates are sharply higher, particularly among boys.

“What we have noticed is that those boys who are not finishing school are from herding families and from families who did not have the opportunity to put the children in the preschools,” said UNICEF Representative Bertrand Desmoulins.

Early education for all

According to UNICEF, children who attend kindergarten or take part in other, alternative forms of preschool activities perform much better in primary school and are less likely to drop out.

UNICEF is working to improve children’s access to early education, whether in formal preschools or alternative childhood development programs and improve their readiness for primary school.

The effort aims to bring education within reach of all Mongolian children, regardless of whether they live in town centres, or on the open plains.




April 2007:
UNICEF correspondent Steve Nettleton takes a look at UNICEF-supported travelling schools for children of migrating families.
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