Unlocking the joy of learning
In western Nepal, Tole Sikshya sessions have inspired a young girl’s transformation from a reluctant school-goer into an active, enthusiastic learner
Rupandehi, Nepal: Geeta BK used to worry a lot about her little girl, Shristi. Although the child seemed lively and confident enough when interacting with family members and neighbours in their home village in the Suddhodhan Rural Municipality in Rupandehi District in western Nepal, all that seemed to disappear come school time.
“She would always ask to stay home,” Geeta says. “It was a constant battle of having to remind her that she had to go to class.”
Geeta suspected that part of Shristi’s reluctance stemmed from her insecurities about not being able to keep up with her classmates at the Samayadevi Basic School. However, having not finished school herself, Geeta was unsure of how to help. And the COVID-19 pandemic only served to exacerbate the issue. Her school closed down for an uncertain period of time, Shristi now had even less reason to focus on her learning and was visibly backsliding.
This regression was most evident when schools finally reopened, and Shristi just outright refused to go to class. “I just couldn’t convince her anymore… I was honestly afraid she was going to drop out,” Geeta says.
That was until a fateful day in 2022 when Shristi attended a Tole Sikshya after-school session, which had just been introduced in Samayadevi, under a project supported by USAID and implemented by UNICEF in partnership with the Kalika Self-reliance Social Centre (KSSC). The project sought to address the learning gaps that COVID-19 had created in children across different ages, and help to accelerate their learning recovery.
Two teachers in the school had just returned from attending a training for educators under the project, and it was thanks to their efforts that the Tole Sikshya classes were initiated at Samaydevi for children from the early childhood development (ECD) level up to grade three.
One of these teachers, Mina Marchaha, recalls her shift in perspective following the rigorous workshop.
“Tole Sikshya is so different from other learning approaches …. we have children from different grades learning under the same roof,” she says.
“Even though there will obviously be differences in the understanding and skill levels of children from difference grades, we are still able to teach them together.”
Learning to use and apply new play-based teaching techniques and resources was another highlight for Mina. This included becoming familiar with electronic tablets that could store a host of reference materials and books, as well as to show videos to the children or play audio files.
“The training took me back to my own days as a student, and made me feel like there is still so much out there to learn if I want to guide my students effectively,” she says. “I was resolved to bring a positive change in the classroom.”
Shristi must have certainly felt that change when she walked into the Tole Sikshya session – because after a few days, she needed no convincing to go to school.
“The games and stories, she enjoyed them so much that she kept wanting to go back,” Geeta laughs. “The teachers engage them so well, they take such good care of them.”
Presently in the third grade, Shristi has become an active participant in classroom activities. Her writing skills have improved considerably over the last year, and she now relishes in completing her assignments. Gita says she no longer worries about having to force her daughter to go to school.
“Sometimes, Shristi will ask if she can go to see Mina Miss even on a Saturday!” she laughs.