“We’re so incredibly grateful to be able to continue our partnership with Kavli Trust. With this new grant we can give 300 struggling students in public schools in Nepal the opportunity they deserve to learn how to read, do math, and believe in themselves again,”, says founder and CEO of Changing Stories, René Jøhnke.
“The grant will also allow us to invest in improving CS Nepal’s capacity to launch and scale innovative learning initiatives in the future.”
With support from Kavli Trust Changing Stories have so far been able to enrol 600 kids in Nepal in their accelerated learning courses. The new funding agreement will allow Changing Stories and their local partner, Changing Stories Nepal, to implement 20 new learning courses, as well as strengthening their work with capacity building in Nepal.
8-12 years old
The students are from about 8-12 years old and live in the city of Tulsipur in Dang district, Nepal. All have missed out on learning in the early grades. Most of those enrolled in the courses are either 1, 2, 3, or 4 grade levels behind their classmates, according to the latest reports from Changing Stories monitoring and evaluation team.
The first generation
“We don’t have the exact data yet, but the kids who attend our courses are often the first generation in their families to go to school,” says Jøhnke.
Most are from low-income backgrounds, many of them belonging to underprivileged ethnic groups.
“Their fathers are mostly daily labourers, farmers or migrant workers. Their mothers are mostly housewives, daily labourers, farmers, or owners of their own local businesses.”
Want their kids to succeed
The parents might never have had an opportunity to go to school at all, or they have gone to school for a year or two, but not completed.
“That sometimes makes it difficult for parents to support their kids learning once they have fallen far behind their classmates in school,”, says Jøhnke.
“That being said we also see and hear stories of how much parents want their kids to succeed in school. Some of our parents wake up at 4 in the morning to get their kids ready and walk them to school so they can attend our courses for two hours before the normal school day starts.”
An accelerated learning course consists of 90 lessons, each lasting for two hours. The lessons take place either before or after the normal school day. The aim of the courses is to help students who have fallen hopelessly behind in school, and who are at risk of dropping out of school, get back on track.
The kids are taught foundational Nepali literacy and numeracy skills by so-called “fellows”, local, talented youth who receive pre-service teacher training, and bi-weekly support sessions once they start teaching.
“The students are learning how to read and how to do basic math. There are 15 students enrolled in each course. In most schools, normally, there are one to three courses running at the same time – depending on the number of academically struggling students, says René Jøhnke.
Involving the families
Involvement of the families of the children is essential. Parent meetings are held three times during the courses on school grounds, and regular contact between fellows and their students’ parents is emphasised.
“If parents are actively involved, kids are too,” says René Jøhnke.
“If students have been absent for a few days with no explanation, and it hasn’t been possible to establish phone contact with their parents, our fellows sometimes walk an hour or more just to visit the homes of their students to talk to their parents, and to convince them to make sure their kids come to classes regularly.”
Learning through play
The kids are taught through lessons built around the principle of “learning through play”. The fellows can teach in alternative ways, through arts, singing, dancing and games.
Peer and group learning are also important aspects of the structure of the lessons. Students, both those who thrive and those who struggle, are encouraged to learn from each other.
“Taking the kids outside the classroom for learning activities is also something we emphasise. If the lesson is on geometry, the fellows will ask their students to gather stones to build different shapes, or go outside to identify as many triangles as they can in the school yard,” says Jøhnke.
“Learning through play and teaching at the level the kids are at, not at the level you wish they were at, are the underlying ‘principles’ of the courses.”
Photo on top: Laxmi, Monika and Sushmita attending Changing Stories Nepal’s accelerating learning course.
Consequences of the Corona pandemic
Nepal has been on lockdown since March 23rd, with a new extension recently announced until June 15th.
“All schools and other education institutions are closed, which means that our work is on hold for now. Until now there have been no plans to lift the lockdown or reopen schools. The CS Nepal team are all working from home and making preparations for the next round of accelerated learning courses that will begin as soon as schools reopen,”, says Jøhnke.
The courses take in a classroom at the school the students are attending. Photo: Changing Stories