Beyond textbook learning

In far-western Nepal, a UNICEF-supported parenting education radio programme has strengthened relationships between caregivers and children

Laxmi with her three children outside their home in Mugu District in far-western Nepal.
Seto Gurans/2020
06 July 2021

Mugu, Nepal: It has always been one of Laxmi Hamal’s regrets that she did not complete school. The mother of three from Chhayanath Rara Municipality in Mugu District in Nepal’s rural far west had dropped out after the eighth grade – something she often wishes she hadn’t done, especially when she struggles to help her children with their schoolwork.

This proved particular challenging for Laxmi and husband Hari Krishna during the COVID-19 pandemic. Six-year-old Om and five-year-old Asmita couldn’t go to their early childhood development centre. “We could see them getting restless and frustrated because they fought constantly,” Laxmi says. “But we just didn’t know what to do with them.”

In the midst of those trying times, Laxmi heard about a new radio programme called Sikdai Sikaundai designed for parents like her. The show, developed by UNICEF and Seto Gurans National Child Development Services in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Center for Education and Human Resource Development and the Nepal Education Cluster, is an effort to provide caregivers with information and guidance on supporting children’s learning and development at home.

The show – currently being aired across the country from over 85 radio stations in Nepali, Bhojpuri and Maithili languages – is aimed at parents and children from more marginalized communities where access to other sources of information might be limited

Laxmi with her three children outside their home in Mugu District in far-western Nepal.

Through the show, Laxmi learned about different activities that she could be doing with her children, including the youngest, three-year-old Karna, and how these would contribute to their development.

Understanding this also meant that Laxmi now felt more confident that despite having dropped out of school, she still had a lot of practical knowledge and skills that her children could benefit from. “It felt good to know that I could contribute,” she says. For instance, she began to teach them about farming – how crops were grown, the different types of grains, among other areas.

With this kind of attention from their parents, and a host of new activities that they could now indulge in throughout the day, the children have become much more focused, Laxmi says. She describes how curious they are about the work that she does on the farm, how they are much less disruptive and willing to learn.

“It was eye-opening for me because I had always thought children need to only read textbooks, but from the radio show, I understood that playing is an important part of learning,” Laxmi says.