Kindergartens in the Middle of Nowhere

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

They call them “Ger Kindergarten”.  Yes, they are right in the middle of nowhere and yet they are fully functional, some with as many as 20 kids in the enrollment list.  The name comes from the structure used, the ger — traditional mobile tents (yurts) of the Mongolian nomads.  The kindergarten is usually composed of 2 gers, one is used as the classroom / activity room, the other as the kitchen and feeding area.  A short distance from the gers is a flimsy outhouse.  Supported by an international donor, the kindergartens are equipped with solar panels for lighting, books, sleeping materials, and other equipment.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

The concept is an ingenious one.  Mongolian nomadic herder families move around a lot and, because of this, their kindergarten aged kids miss the chance to go to a formal kindergarten school.  The solution: provide a kindergarten school that was mobile and used a structure that has been proven effective against the unpredictable weather in the steppe. The ger was the best answer.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Parents help determine the location of the kindergarten.  It should be within a relatively accessible distance to where most herder families have built camp for the season (the average distance between households/ger camps in the steppe is 30 kilometers).   Parents bring their child to the kindergarten via a car or a horse in the morning and then pick up the child late in the afternoon.  In some cases, parents ask the kindergarten staff to care for their child overnight.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

I was with a group that was inspecting ger kindergartens in 4 different towns. We had to meet with the kindergarten director in the soum (town) center before visiting the ger kindergartens. It always took us at least 2 hours in our Land Cruisers from the town center to the place where a ger kindergarten is located.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

The main internal structure is exactly the same as the ordinary ger with 2 main posts and symmetrically radiating poles as beams. An oven is used for cooking and to provide heating inside the structure. The only difference is that books and instructional materials line the walls of the ger kindergarten instead of the usual household items.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

The kids appear to be well-behaved…..

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….and diligent in their studies.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

And they sleep well when it’s time for siesta.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Meanwhile, in the other ger, a staff member was preparing their meal.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

And the kids dine together.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Some feel sleepy again after the meal.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

And then it was playtime!

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But the teacher must make sure that none of the kids get hurt while playing.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Some kids choose to stay away from the group.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Others are still too young to join the fun.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

And then the teacher assembled everyone to form a line.

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Then off they marched to the outhouse for toilet training.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Using the outhouse was a simple affair.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

Too simple for malice of any sort.

Jessie T. Ponce Photography

And then it was time to pose for the camera and be put on record that they were there. Young Mongolian angels attending kindergarten in the middle of nowhere.

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