A steep learning curve

Despite school closures owing to COVID-19, a little boy in western Nepal was able to learn at home with help from his aunt and an innovative telephone-learning modality piloted by UNICEF

31 December 2021

As part of the initiative, caregivers of young children of four years of age were provided mobile data to take part in closed user groups. They would then receive text messages on a daily basis guiding them on learning activities to carry out with their children. Following this, early childhood development (ECD) teachers would follow up with the caregivers via phone for further guidance.

Nar’s sister and Mobin’s aunt Sipa eagerly stepped up to take on the responsibility of Mobin’s learning. “We spent about three hours a day doing the exercises,” Sipa says. “It was very productive for both him and me.”

Sipa admits that it did take time to get used to the approach. “It was all new to us at the beginning – we would see the messages but would often be confused about how to relay them to the child,” she says.

UNICEF Nepal/2021/PPanth
Sipa Budha teaching four-year-old Mobin, with father Nar Bahadur behind them.
UNICEF Nepal/2021/PPanth
Nar Bahadur Budha with son Mobin

In this, however, she credits the patience and support of the local ECD teacher, Nirmala Subedi, who helped the family through this learning curve, even making frequent home visits to get them acquainted with the methods.

In the months after starting tele-learning, Mobin made improvements in a number of areas. He became familiar with the Nepali and English alphabets, and learned to write numbers up to 20. Although he has since returned to school, his aunt says that the tele-learning experience taught them both some very valuable lessons.  

“I discovered teaching young children is not an easy task,” his aunt says. “It has a lot to do with understanding their psychology and interests, and working accordingly.”

Telephone-based learning is among a range of alternative education modalities that were developed as part of the Learning Continuity Campaign by the Government of Nepal and education partners to help children continue to learn through prolonged school closures brought about by COVID-19. UNICEF supported the piloting of the tele-learning modality in four municipalities in Rautahat, Kapilvastu, Surkhet and Achham Districts, and was able to reach over 3,400 caregivers and children within a five-month run.