When the Aga Khan Foundation learned that many rural Kyrgyz children were missing out on kindergarten during the annual migration to the “jailoo”, or high pastures, for four to five months a year, it supported a programme to bring early childhood education to the mountains.
The summer migration to the jailoo follows a tradition that dates back over 2,500 years – a tradition that was only interrupted during the Soviet era. To bring structured, active and enjoyable learning opportunities to the jailoo, AKDN supports a system of linked central and satellite kindergartens. Many of the satellite kindergartens operate in village homes during the winter and in yurts (nomadic tents) during the summer pasturage.
The yurt kindergartens have been exceptionally popular. In response to demand, the teachers have started organising activities for older children and have also set up small libraries in yurts that cater to children from two to 14 years old. The concept has since expanded to other villages and summer pastures. Early surveys indicate that when children from the jailoo kindergarten programme enter primary school, they outperform others in both reading and maths.
The programme has even caught the notice of the World Challenge, a global competition sponsored by BBC World, Newsweek and Shell "aimed at finding projects or small businesses from around the world that have shown enterprise and innovation at a grass roots level".
For more information on the "jailoo" programme, please see the World Challenge website.