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Non-formal schooling boosts access to basic education in Nepal

© UNICEF Nepal/2006
Anwar Jahan Khatun, 12, and her grandfather at a UNICEF-supported learning centre for out-of-school children in Materiya village, Kapilvastu, Nepal.

By Sagun S. Lawoti

KAPILVASTU, Nepal, 17 July 2006 – Children who were out of school in 15 districts of Nepal now have the opportunity to learn how to read and write, thanks to the UNICEF-supported Out-of-School Programme (OSP).

Designed to provide basic education through a non-formal approach, the new strategy has helped approximately 15,700 children complete a 10-month course. Among them is Anwar Jahan Khatun, 12, who is from a Muslim household in an impoverished village in west Nepal.

Anwar spent most of her childhood grazing cattle and helping with household chores. “Now I learn math, Nepali and drawing in the non-formal class in the neighbourhood,” she says. “I also learn about health and hygiene.”

Children’s rights to education

The programme’s main is to fulfill children’s rights to a basic education, especially for girls and low-caste children. The ultimate goal is to help the children continue their education in formal schools. In 2005, nearly 40 per cent of OSP graduates – more than half of them girls – made the successful transition into primary schools.

© UNICEF Nepal/2006
Shabnam Khatun, 13, reads in front of her classmates at the learning centre in Materiya village.

The initiative also emphasizes community participation and has brought some noticeable changes in conservative attitudes.

“Sending kids to school, particularly girls, was never a priority in our community,” says Anwar’s 60-year-old grandfather, Muhammad Islam Khan. “But now we know the worth. So if my granddaughter does well in the non-formal classes, I’ll be more than happy to send her to a formal school.”

The OSP is divided into two levels. Level one enables a child to be admitted into formal school at grade two. Completion of level two qualifies a child for grade five or six.

Use of mother tongue

“The courses include reading, writing and numerical skills, all essential in a child’s development,” says Khusiyali Chaudhary, a facilitator at an OSP centre in the village of Hatausa, in Kapilvastu district. “The use of the mother tongue to teach texts in Nepali, despite creating difficulties at the initial stages, has proven beneficial.”

For children from indigenous communities, the approach helps them feel at ease among other children. And at the same time, they also get to learn Nepali, the national language, which will help them survive and thrive in the mainstream society one day.

“If not for the free education provided by OSP, my family could not have afforded sending me back to school,” admits Shabnam Khatun, 13, who had dropped out of school in fifth grade. “If you ask me, I guess there’s no turning back,” she adds – then returns to her table and begins reciting her lessons with her classmates.



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