Under this initiative, lessons are broadcast daily through local radio stations to over 23,000 households, reaching over 66,000 children and 14,000 parents. Radio sets, worksheets and other educational materials are being distributed to children’s families. The program will assist the transition back to in person classroom learning when schools reopen.
Nearly two months after the launch of the program, PSE has been warmly received by students and educators alike.
Bahjang Secondary School student, Pramila Ratala, who lives with disability, has welcomed the way Learning by Radio has brought her school to her home.
“I used to walk two hours to go to my school but nowadays, I am learning from my home,” she said. “In addition to regular school curriculum, I also learn life skills and issues of gender equality. In future, I want to work for the benefit of children with disabilities and be like the award-winning author Jhamak Ghimire.”
Through PSE, educators visit homes, distributing learning materials and radio sets to families and providing support to parents and community members.
Local governments are closely engaged in the program. Education representative of Haleshi Tuwachung Municipality of Khotang district, Padam Karki said, “With the federal government’s decision to close schools, we were quite worried about what we could do to ensure we backstop learning loss among our children”.
“Learning by Radio is instrumental in continuing education for our children. We are ready to cooperate with the program by visiting households and interacting with the parents and other stakeholders of children’s education, distribution of radio sets, workbooks and worksheets, and mobilising volunteer teachers,” Karki added.
The benefits of programs like Learning by Radio, are not confined to Covid; rather, they provide innovative learning models for all who have difficulty accessing traditional education due to disabilities or their remote location.
As Keshari Rai, a teacher from Janajagriti Basic School in Dudhkunda, Solukhumbu observed, “There is very limited access to smartphones and reliable internet. Children have to walk a long distance to come to school every day.”
Delivery of pre-recorded educational materials also benefits parents and local communities ith information relevant regardless of age. Ishori Nepali from Talkot Rural Municipality, Bajhang district, said she found her child’s radio lessons on gender equality and life-skills useful to her as well and she has become a regular listener.
Barun Lamichhane, station manager of Beats FM, Sindhuli, agreed that Learning by Radio has applications beyond the formal education setting. “The program has helped deliver life-skill education and public service announcements including information on pandemic, gender issues and disaster preparedness.”
From Australia’s cattle stations to Nepal’s Himalayan communities, students and their families are benefiting from schools of the air. For all the challenges Covid-19 has presented, it has also reminded us that old technologies combined with new thinking can help chart a more positive future.
Felicity Volk is the Australian Ambassador to Nepal.