|Programme Title||My Grandparents’ Stories, My Pictures|
|Implementing Organization||READ Nepal|
|Language of Instruction||Nepali|
|Funding||The John Robert Gregg Fund|
|Programme Partners||Nepalese Society for Children's Literature (NESCHIL), MandapikaTheatre Group, Jhuwani CLRC, Laxminarayan CLRC, Janajagaran CLRC, Gyanbikash CLRC, RIRC model centre|
|Annual Programme Costs||US $21,000|
|Date of Inception||March 2014|
With more than half of its population of 27 million people living on less than US $2 per day, Nepal is one of the poorest countries in the world. The road density of Nepal is very low with more than half of the rural population living more than half an hour away from the nearest all-weather road. More than 60 per cent of the rural population have no access to electricity and depend on oil-based or renewable energy alternatives. Nepal has also witnessed considerable political instability, with the country making a transition to peace following a period of conflict that ended in 2006. The conflict raised people’s awareness of the failure of Nepal’s political, social and economic institutions to reflect the country’s diversity. Nepal is a highly diverse country not only geographically but also in terms of language, religion, culture, caste and ethnicity. Besides the official language of Nepali, some 92 other languages are spoken in Nepal.
Educational planning and management at all levels are the responsibility of the Ministry of Education (MoE). In 1999 the Ministry of Education established the Department of Education (DoE), which now controls the five regional district offices and is responsible for implementing and monitoring educational programmes. Furthermore, the Non-Formal Education Centre (NFEC) was founded in 1993, under the MoE, in order to institutionalize programmes of non-formal education. Despite this, the high rate of illiteracy in the country remains a challenge, especially among adults. The total adult literacy rate in 2011 was 57.4 per cent, with a significant gap between women, at 46.7 per cent, and men, at 71.1 per cent.With an estimated 7.6 million adults unable to read or write, the Nepalese government needs to develop innovative approaches to promote literacy among its adult population.
READ is a non-profit organization working in rural Asia to build community library and resource centres (READ centres) and launch small businesses. The READ centres offer programmes in education, economic empowerment, technology and women’s empowerment. All 79 centres are owned and operated by the local community. Each has a library, computer room, women’s section, children’s room, and training hall.With each READ centre, the organization helps develop a for-profit ‘sustaining enterprise’, a small business that creates local jobs and generates profit to support the ongoing costs of the centre. Sustaining enterprises range from tractor rental services and agricultural cooperatives, to community radio stations and sewing cooperatives. Since 1991, the READ model has evolved from the idea of a rural library to a thriving network of READ centres and sustaining enterprises in Bhutan, India and Nepal.More than 2 million people have access to READ centres and their training activities.
Nepal has a unique historical and cultural heritage. For centuries, the history of Nepal has been transmitted from generation to generation through oral storytelling: the passing on stories about culture, livelihood and the natural environment. Yet, as Nepalese society modernizes and globalizes, this practice has begun to recede. Stories are forgotten, traditional dances blend with more modern ones, and local histories are lost. To preserve the endangered oral heritage of rural communities, READ staff in Nepal developed a project called My Grandparents’ Stories, My Pictures, which was implemented in five READ centres across the country. Elders from five communities in Nepal were selected for the project because of their extensive knowledge of historical events and endangered cultural practices. They gathered at their local READ centre libraries – the Jhuwani READ centre in Chitwan, Laxminarayan centre in Lamjung, Janajagaran centre in Nuwakot, the Gyanbikash centre in Panauti, Kavre, and the Read Information and Resource Centre (RIRC) model READ centre in Badikhel. These centres were selected because they are are rich in terms of culture, myth, tradition and history.
At the centres, the elders participated in workshops on storytelling led by the Nepalese Society for Children’s Literature (NESCHIL). NESCHIL is an independent literary organization established in 1987 to promote reading activities which bring together writers, illustrators, librarians, teachers and experts involved in children’s activities. After the workshops, groups of 20 local children from each village met at the READ centres to listen to the elders telling their stories. The young people created a written record of the stories and made illustrations to accompany them.The stories were compiled into five illustrated storybooks, published, and returned to the community libraries as permanent records.
As traditional arts such as painting, dance, music and drama have always been integral to the telling and re-telling of stories in Nepal, the communities also developed theatre programmes to act out the stories.
The project began in March 2014 and ended in December 2014.
Aims and Objectives
The main objectives of the project were:
- To inform the community about Nepalese history, culture and traditions;
- To preserve the cultural heritage of the community;
- To enhance children’s creative story writing and illustration skills;
- To promote a reading and writing culture among children;
- To build cross-generational relationships;
- To increase the community’s engagement and involvement in library activities.
The following activities were carried out in each READ centre throughout the project:
- Meeting with the library management committee (LMC) and project orientation. At an agreed date and time, circulated to the library management committee beforehand, staff from READ Nepal and NESCHIL met with the LMC to introduce the project. There was then an opportunity for doubts and queries to be raised and addressed. A short orientation was provided to LMC members on project activities and objectives. The process of identifying children and community elders was also discussed in the meeting.
- Identification of children. The library identified and invited children who were regular visitors. It also contacted schools in the area to identify children who could write and illustrate well. A group of 20 children was selected from each centre for storybook making (10 for illustration and 10 for writing). Children who visited the centre’s children’s section frequently and demonstrated an interest in drawing and storytelling were selected, along with students from local schools with an interest in art. These children were involved in writing and illustrating the stories.
- Short briefing about the project to children.
Selected children participated in storybook writing and drawing training. A story writing and illustration expert provided a one-day orientation about their role in the project and how to write effectively and illustrate stories using paint, coloured pencils and collages. Samples were provided, and the children were encouraged to create storybooks that accurately reflected their culture and historical context, which is often absent from local children’s books.
- Identification of community elders. A group of elders with extensive knowledge of historical events, figures and endangered cultural practices were selected from the community for storytelling. Elders with an interest in storytelling, experience of the old culture, information on heritage matters and knowledge of legend, myth and fable were prioritized. At least 10 elders were identified. The process was carried out with the help of LMC members. After identification, a focus group discussion (FGD) and one-day project orientation were conducted with the elders.
- FGD with community elders, project orientation and identification of stories. An FGD was organized with community elders and a one-day project orientation was provided. Stories about significant and historic events to share with the children were selected during the FGD. The elders suggested stories that explained the origins of important temples, heritage, myths and rituals in their communities, as well as the legends that inspired certain local festivals and holidays. Finally, the stories and the storytellers were selected by the FGD, with the elders acting as the key storytellers for the project.
- Short orientation about storytelling. A short orientation was provided to the elder storytellers by NESCHIL. Orientation on the techniques and processes of storytelling was provided by the expert and the date and venue for the storytelling was finalized. Following orientation, storytellers were able to incorporate important terms and phrases from indigenous languages into their stories.
- Training on story writing and illustration for the children. Two days of training on story writing and illustration were organized by NESCHIL. The 20 selected children were trained in storybook writing and drawing (with 10 in each training). Experts provided training in writing effectively and illustrating stories using paint, colored pencils and collages.
- Storytelling, story writing and illustration. The elders shared their stories with the children in an appropriate place and environment. READ staff and the NESCHIL team facilitated between the three groups (storytellers, story writers and story illustrators). Because the stories shared by elders cannot be found in textbooks or on the internet, the children were encouraged to ask the elders questions about their stories. Some of the children sketched illustrations based on stories, while others wrote the stories down. The stories were also recorded.
- Making a draft storybook. After the storytelling session, the children returned to their table and made a draft storybook, including illustrations, with the help of NESCHIL experts. They used recordings to make the storybooks and the expert provided support, coaching them to develop the draft storybook.
- Open discussion with elders on draft storybook. Following the development of the draft storybook, an open discussion was organized by NESCHIL with the storytellers. Elders who told three different stories reviewed the storybook and made changes or added information.
- Final storybook making. The NESCHIL expert edited the story, redesigned it and refined the illustration to made the storybook ready for publication.
- Printing of storybook. Storybooks were printed in four colors on art paper by READ Nepal, which published 1,200 copies of each of the five books. Further printing can be done according to demand and the desire of potential funders. The storybooks are kept in each READ centre and distributed to interested organizations, such as non-governmental organizations, schools and clubs, and libraries.
- Theatre show. Five theatre shows were performed on library premises or nearby by the Mandapika Theatre Group. One show, based on the storybook, was performed in each centre.
The following storybooks were published:
- Story of Jhuwani Village
This story concerns how the name ‘Jhuwani’ came into existence. Jhuwani is a village in Chitwan district and most of its villagers belong to the Tharu community. The story gives insights into the culture, traditions and language of the residents of Jhuwani.
- Story of Panauti.
The story of Panauti explains the origin of the name ‘Panauti’. Panauti is a village in Kavre district and its residents belong to the Newar community. The story decribes the religious myths of the village.
- Story of Lamjung.
The story of Lamjung illustrates the unification process in Nepal. It consists of two different stories: the story of King Drabya Shah and an account of the life of women living in Lamjung district.
- Story of Badikhel.
The story of Badikhel also includes two stories: one narrates the old tales of the community and the other tells how the name ‘Badikhel’ originated.
- Story of Chimteshwor.
This last publication tells the story of how Chimteshwor village in Nuwakot district got its name.
Impact and Challenges
The project made it possible to test different methods and to identify which ones worked best for the storytelling and writing activities. In the same way, it was possible to evaluate the effectiveness of the whole project.
The NESCHIL team practices different storytelling methods: 1) storytelling by a single elder at one time; 2) storytelling by group of elders at same time; and 3) first listening to a story and then writing and sketching. During implementation it was discovered that the most feasible method was to write drafts as the elders were telling their stories in a group setting.
The project not only helped to preserve stories about the culture of various districts in Nepal but also contributed to closing the gap between two generations and helped to renew relationships. Similarly, the project also worked towards the development of a reading and writing culture among children and elderly people.Children got the chance to develop their creative skills and older people were pleased to share their knowledge and experience. The project also helped to establish a good relationship with the community libraries in the five districts. It also enhanced the relationship between the community elders and the libraries.
The project was welcomed by community members who confirmed that they enjoyed the storytelling and writing sessions. Children and grandparents were proud that their stories and pictures had been published in book format.
- Travel expenses to remote districts for implementing partner NESCHIL and Mandapika Theatre Group turned out to be very expensive.
- Difficulty of travelling due to poor weather conditions affected the smooth running of the project.
- It was difficult to decide in favour of just one story in each district. All stories were good quality but the funding situation did not allow for publishing more. The target was to publish five storybook in five centres.
Hari Sundar Tamrakar, Panauti: ‘I found everything in this book. I felt as if I had written this book. The book includes the story of Basuki naag, Macchindra Nath and Patan. I am happy to see this. I have some other stories and I would definitely share those later.’
Durga Prasad Dhakal, Nuwakot: ‘I had not exptected the storybook to turn out to be so good. The storybook has everything that I had heard from my father and all that I had shared with my grandchildren. I am also amazed to see the drama. The drama looks so real and convincing.’
Bhola Kumar Shrestha, Chief Librarian; Dilli Raman Library: ‘Storytelling has been a part of Nepalese culture from centuries with the elders usually telling stories to children … However, with the modernization of Nepalese societey and with the use of television, internet, mobile, etc, Nepal is slowly losing the tradition of folkore and storytelling. The culture of storytelling is important to bridge the intergenerational gaps and for strengthening the bond between the generations. So, it is important to preserve the stories, cultures and traditions of communities before they become lost.’
Navaraj Pahadi, Antaranga National Weekly, Editor: ‘This storybook helped to revive the old memories among the elder generations while the new generations got the opportunity to learn the history.’
Tripti Neupane, Nisha Neupane and Akansha Neupane: ‘We learned about the story of Chimteshwor after hearing it from our local elders. The storybook and the drama helped narrate the story more effectively and we love this programme very much.’
During the implementation phase of the project, various lessons were learned which will guide the work of the READ centres in the future. One of the lessons concerned the stories explored during the project. There were several, with different information collected foreach, which created confusion about which story should be covered.
It was also found that more funds needed to be allocated to book publishing. Publishing more books lowers the unit cost of printing.
The project promoted the spread of information and the sharing of knowledge. Although there were many stories in the community, they had not been shared and had not, therefore, been heard by young people. Older people love to share stories with the younger generation but they lacked an appropriate time and opportunity to do so. When this changed, it was apparent that the children were very excited not only to listen to the stories, but also to write and illustrate them to create storybooks.
READ is in the process of creating a second version of My Grandparents’ Stories, My Pictures. The follow-up programme will focus on the earthquake of April 2015 and its aftermath, considering the experience of both generations.
- World Bank n.d. Power and people : the benefits of renewable energy in Nepal. [Last accessed 18 September 2015]
- Shrestha, S. and Krolak, L. 2014. 'The potential of community libraries in supporting literate environments and sustaining literacy skills'. International Review of Education – Journal of Lifelong Learning.[PDF 423 KB] [Last accessed 18 September 2015]
- World Bank. 2015. Nepal country profile
Mr Durgesh Kumar Yogi
M&E and Capacity Building Manager
Rural Education and Development (READ) Nepal
Baluwatar - 4, Kathmandu
Tel No: 977-1-4423141/ 4439858
Last update: 18 September 2015