How a dedicated early childhood education and development teacher in western Nepal trained with UNICEF support was able to lead a young learner out of his isolation and silence
Kapilvastu, Nepal: Little Bharat Adhikari’s young life had been marked by isolation from the very beginning.
The family's home was situated in a secluded area in Shivaraj Municipality in Kapilvastu District in the hills of western Nepal. This was compounded further by the absence of Bharat’s father, Devlal, who worked overseas, and his mother, Sangita, who worked as a daily wage laborer outside the home for most of the day.
That isolation was also reflected in Bharat’s ability to communicate with others. Even at the age of five, Bharat could not speak as much or as clearly as other children his age.
it was Shanti Giri, teacher at the Dhankhola Early Childhood Education and Development (ECED) center – where Bharat was enrolled – who first picked up on this.
“I was initially under the impression that he was deaf because he was relying almost entirely on hand gestures,” Shanti says. “I later realized that he was just doing that because he could not speak well.”
Rather than feeling discouraged, however, Shanti eagerly embraced the opportunity to help Bharat, while enhancing her own skills. This boost of confidence had come following her participation in a 10-day training session on Early Learning Development Standards (ELDS) organized by UNICEF in partnership with Seto Gurans National Child Development Services and Shivaraj Municipality, made possible thanks to generous support from Let Us Learn.
Shanti had been among 62 ECED teachers from Shivaraj who had taken the training, geared at equipping teachers with the tools to assess children based on 19 specific ELDS criteria and provide targeted learning support as needed.
Shanti sought to apply everything she had learned to her own classroom of 21 children. She started by undertaking regular evaluations of the children’s progress as per their age, covering various developmental areas.
“This was helpful because it clearly showed you where you needed to improve,” she explains.
Once such areas were identified, teachers could then focus their attention on appropriate practices to help the children through specific learning obstacles.
In Bharat’s case, this meant that Shanti spent a lot of dedicated time interacting with him to build trust and rapport. “I could feel that he was becoming more comfortable, and more interested in coming to class,” Shanti says.
The change, of course, didn’t happen overnight, rather unfolding over a period of four to five months, following continuous monitoring and encouragement on Shanti’s part. Alongside her own efforts, Shanti is also grateful for the support of other faculty at the school, particularly principal Sunil Pun, who took a two-day ECED orientation so as to be able to better understand and assist early learners.
Thanks to all this, Bharat had not only improved by leaps and bounds in terms of his speech, but had become much more confident in interacting with his fellow ECED mates. Shanti also made sure that Sangita was kept abreast of all that was happening, meeting her regularly to provide her updates on Bharat’s improvement.
“Hearing my child slowly learn to speak – I can’t describe how that made me feel,” says Sangita. “It was the same for my husband, he was so happy every time I called him to tell him what new thing Bharat had learned or done.
I’m so glad we decided to enroll him at the ECED centre.”