|The kindergarten urts, west taiga, northern Mongolia.
Transition to kindergarten is an exciting time for any child, but even more so for the Dukha reindeer herding children of northern Mongolia. Throughout the year, families migrate four to six, even ten times to new pastures for their animals. They move back and forth seasonally from the forests to Tsaagannuur sum (the government center) where the schools, two banks, a hospital and a few local shops are located. In the taiga forests where the reindeer graze families stay in a birch and canvas urts (teepee) that is heated by a wood burning stove. When staying in town most families have a small wooden house. No one has indoor plumbing.
This past summer, to prepare them for entering school for the first time in the fall, five-year olds in the west taiga attended a 21-day pre-kindergarten class. There were two specially erected urts for the occasion, one a dedicated classroom and the other a temporary home for the instructors. Toys, games, floor coverings, and all of the necessary materials were transported to the countryside from Tsaagannuur by horse or reindeer. Thirty children registered for the class. Two teachers stayed from the end of June until mid-August teaching the children not just ‘academics,’ but reinforcing good hand-washing and teeth brushing habits as well. There was also lots of time for outdoor play and storytelling. Our small NGO Corawill donated some notebooks, workbooks, markers, pens and games for the children.
In the taiga, weather delays and school closings do not exist. It snowed lightly the first day of school as the kids arrived by foot, horse and reindeer. On opening day parents came too and tied up their 'transportation' as they visited the school. What a beautiful setting for their new learning experiences.
|Families arriving the first day of school.
|The floor covering and all of the toys and games were brought to the taiga by reindeer or horse.
|Some children stopped by our urts to play with the pens and games before the items were donated.
|The Animal Planet memory game was a big hit!
|Outdoor play interrupted by rain!
|Corawill representatives, the teachers and some of the children. We carried our gifts on pack horses.