The youngest of this lot is nine months old. She has an older sister who is five and both of them have recently started at OGN after Bina (the woman who runs OGN) heard about their situation. Their mother was like many of the mothers who have children at OGN: she needs to work all day to feed her family. As a result, the five year old was left at home, taking care of the baby. When Bina heard about this from some of their neighbors, she went to see the mother and organized for the kids to come to OGN. Obviously even the most mature five year old isn't really equipped to care for a baby, so the mere fact that that situation has been changed is a positive step. But because OGN also provides lunch and a snack to the kids, as well as a roughly kindergarten level education to the five year old, they can take some financial pressure off the mother by reducing the number of meals she has to provide for the kids and by giving her children an education she couldn't afford otherwise.
|Nap time in the nursery. This room actually flooded last week and there were fish swimming in it...|
|The playground is still flooded. This is the problem with being adjacent to a poorly maintained rice paddy during monsoon season.|
|The recent parent's meeting.|
So that's the nursery. Lately though, I've been spending more time in the classrooms with the older children. This is mostly just because I'm able to contribute more in the classrooms. The older kids are learning to read and write Nepali, basic math (i.e. counting, addition, etc.), and concepts like shapes, colors, parts of the body, and animals. There is also a drama class where the kids get to sing, dance, and do a little theater. Between my broken Nepali and their broken English, I can communicate well enough with the kids so that I can be some aid to the teacher in the classroom. This usally involves asking the kids questions (what color is this, what is this *point to nose*, etc), checking their written English for mistakes and helping them correct those, and just serving as a second pair of eyes in the classroom.
|Sometime the little ones do thing that they shouldn't...|
|The rugs were outside because they were being dried out after the flooding.|
|This worm drew the interest of a small crowd of toddlers.|
Amusingly, the older children speak really polite English because that's what they've been taught. When you show up, you can expect to be greeted by "Good Afternoon, Sir" chanted in unison. Similarly, they've been taught to ask permission before they enter or leave the classroom.
This doesn't mean that they're always well behaved though. Some of them fall asleep in class, hit their friend who is sitting in front of them, steal each other's toys, and generally cause trouble. The teaching method can be a bit repetitive at times so these things tend to happen when the kids get bored. Not surprisingly, they've figured out that volunteers are far less likely to punish them (not least because of the language gap) and so they're usually at their worst behavior when the teacher leaves me or Oliver (the other volunteer) alone in the classroom.
I wish I had a better memory of what I did in kindergarten for two reasons. First, I'd have a better idea of what I should be doing to teach the kids and second, I'd have a better sense of how OGN compares to a typical kindergarten class. I suspect that the OGN education is a little slap dash. A few of the teachers are very young and this is their first time teaching. The lessons are too easy for some of the older kids in the class but difficult for the younger ones. Ideally, there would be a little less rote memorization. But these are small things. At the end of the day, it's an education. Maybe it's scrapped together a bit, but it's something. Hopefully, when some of these kids transfer into private school (usually with financial aid from OGN) they'll be ready for the harder curriculum because of this sort of thing.
So that's OGN. I usually stick around until 5 or 6 pm, at which point most of the kids have been picked up by their parents. Then it's 35 minutes back to Boudha through the traffic and dust. And then I'm home, exhausted and hungry and ready to sleep...