Another early childhood center that has seen a total transformation after working with ICRI Nepal is the Balmandir Thecho ECD Center. The Centre is run by the National Children’s Organization, Balmandir. Most of the children’s parents are day laborers, and as such there is high turnover and a high level of poverty amongst the student population.
When ICRI Nepal was first invited to work at this school, children as young as 2 years old were sitting behind desks all day, working out of textbooks. It took many months of meetings, tranings, and conversations to convince the administration to allow the children to have greater freedom of movement. In the end a compromise was reached—low round tables in the 2 to 3 year old room and colorful, stackable, movable tables and chairs in the 3 to 4 year old room. Staff and parents are very proud of the new tables and chairs, which can be easily moved aside to allow the children to roam the small classrooms freely.
Although the Centre has little to no resources for materials, the teachers are very dedicated and have worked with ICRI Nepal staff to create activity centers full of found objects and locally-made materials. The teachers have also transformed the curriculum based on what they’ve learned at the National Center for Learning Resources trainings hosted by ICRI Nepal.
On the day I visited the school, the youngest children was enthralled with a pile of homemade blocks that had been painted with Nepali and English characters. The older children were ecstatically singing songs written by their teacher while they drew pictures on bits of recycled paper and cardboard.
I was invited to sit in a circle with the children to play a “special Nepali game” called Luka Mari. Everyone closed their eyes, waiting for the “tapper” to choose them—and when they did, chased that person back around the circle to their empty spot. It took me a few rounds to catch on, but I soon realized that this was the same game of Duck, Duck Goose I’d enjoyed in my own classrooms as a child!