What is considered a given for those of us in Europe is a privilege and great exception in Nepal: being able to grow up with the shelter and care of a kindergarten. Many children must often help out with fieldwork or in the home, and they are frequently used as cheap labour in the factories.
If the parents have enough money to afford child care, the time for a carefree childhood is very short. At three years old, the children there are forced to learn reading and writing.
At Shanti, all of the children can be children and play until they are ready for school at 6 or 7 years old. Even then, the playful learning style at the school inspired by the Waldorf teaching method is key.
Shanti operates two kindergartens, one in Kathmandu-Tilganga and another in Budhanilkhanta. Twelve children each are warmly cared for there from 10 am to 5 pm while the mothers go to work or take part in an employment programme.
A regular daily routine provides structure to the day and provides orientation for the children.
Before kindergarten, the little ones are rubbed with oil from head to toe. This not only nourishes the skin, but is also an effective guard against parasites. The eyes are surrounded with a special paste that protects against flies, which can carry extreme eye diseases (trachoma is a bacterial infection of the cornea that can lead to blindness).
The morning is devoted to free play time, where the children develop their own vibrant imaginations!
Afterwards, they all meet to dance and sing together before sitting down to eat. Meals are eaten together. The little ones are fed, while the older ones feed themselves. The nutritious mash of rice, legumes and vegetables contain all the important nutrients as well as minerals, vitamins and trace elements that are important for healthy children.
After lunch, they all lie down on the big, soft carpet and cuddle together for a nap under a warm blanket.
As in all Waldorf kindergartens, the children in Nepal also play only with dolls and figures they craft themselves and natural materials like wooden blocks, pine cones and all kinds of nuts. They don't need any more toys – they can make anything out of these with their imagination. Many visitors continue to be amazed by the peaceful and happy atmosphere in these kindergartens.