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Mobile kindergarten for nomadic Mongolian children

Kindergarten comes to the young children of semi-nomadic herder families in Khuvsgul province, Mongolia, in mobile tents pitched seasonally in their remote districts.

KHUVSGUL PROVINCE, Mongolia, 17 July 2013 – Six-year-old Erbenebayar, 'Erka' for short, lives with her semi-nomadic herder family in the remote Khuvsgul province of Mongolia. They are based in a bagh about 20 km from the nearest settlement, Tsagaan-Uur soum. There are no proper roads.

Erka's parents have to look after their livestock and cannot take her to the soum centre every day. Luckily, there is a mobile kindergarten nearby that she can attend. 

"I like coming to the kindergarten," Erka says. "I enjoy singing songs, playing with puzzle games and reading poems. My favourite poem is about a baby chicken, and my favourite song is about getting an excellent mark at kindergarten. Yesterday, I got an excellent mark for my drawing. My best friend is Namuun. She's the teacher's daughter."

A classroom pitched in a valley

The kindergarten is in a traditional Mongolian ger, with a thick quilted lining and a carpet on the floor. Children's pictures are pinned to the wooden frame. Outside, it is raining, and heavy clouds blanket the hills. The ger is pitched in the middle of a wide, flat valley. Some children arrive on foot, with older brothers carrying them across a river. Others arrive with their parents on horseback, motorbike or tractor.

The ger was supplied to the soum by UNICEF Mongolia, fully equipped with toys, learning materials and furniture. It is run by Dolzodmaa, a teacher from the main kindergarten in the soum centre, who now spends the summer taking the ger around the baghs linked to the soum. Currently, 24 children attend the ger kindergarten.

Education for a nomadic population

The mobile ger kindergartens are a unique solution to the problem of providing education to a nomadic population. They function in rural areas from June to August and, where weather permits, from May to November. As well as providing early childhood education, they give children the opportunity to socialize with others. In Mongolia, herder families live spread out over a wide area and can be very isolated, particularly in the winter when the days shorten, temperatures plunge and heavy snow piles up outside. The gers also give teachers better access to parents, and allow the parents to go out and work, tending their livestock and preparing for the next winter.

"The facilities here are more basic than in the soum centre, so we concentrate on teaching the children to interact and socialize," Dolzodmaa says. "This is their main opportunity to meet strangers, make friends and express themselves. Today, we talked about weather in the summer season. The children learned a poem about a rainbow and made pictures of raindrops. There was a big thunderstorm last night, and some of the children were scared, so it's helpful to talk about it."

Including all children

Erka lives in a remote village, and she lives with a disability. She contracted polio at 4 months old, and she has a damaged right arm and leg and difficulty communicating. She lives with her adoptive family.

The ger was supplied to the soum by UNICEF Mongolia, fully equipped with toys, learning materials and furniture. It is run by Dolzodmaa, a teacher from the main kindergarten in the soum centre, who now spends the summer taking the ger around the baghs linked to the soum. Currently, 24 children attend the ger kindergarten.

Education for a nomadic population

The mobile ger kindergartens are a unique solution to the problem of providing education to a nomadic population. They function in rural areas from June to August and, where weather permits, from May to November. As well as providing early childhood education, they give children the opportunity to socialize with others. In Mongolia, herder families live spread out over a wide area and can be very isolated, particularly in the winter when the days shorten, temperatures plunge and heavy snow piles up outside. The gers also give teachers better access to parents, and allow the parents to go out and work, tending their livestock and preparing for the next winter.

"The facilities here are more basic than in the soum centre, so we concentrate on teaching the children to interact and socialize," Dolzodmaa says. "This is their main opportunity to meet strangers, make friends and express themselves. Today, we talked about weather in the summer season. The children learned a poem about a rainbow and made pictures of raindrops. There was a big thunderstorm last night, and some of the children were scared, so it's helpful to talk about it."

Including all children

Erka lives in a remote village, and she lives with a disability. She contracted polio at 4 months old, and she has a damaged right arm and leg and difficulty communicating. She lives with her adoptive family.

Read the original article on UNICEF.org.

Glossary

bagh: small district

ger: tent

soum: village