Five years ago, just one in four children went to preschool in Uzbekistan. Offering a solution is a fleet of book-filled buses that take education to rural areas
Every morning in the remote mountains of Uzbekistan, preschool children climb into bright yellow school buses kitted out with playdough, books, toys and fully trained teachers. They’ll spend the next few hours painting, playing, making and singing. It will be their first taste of something crucial to nurturing their future potential: an early years education.
Five years ago, just one in four children in the country went to preschool, and in remote areas, just one in ten. The government came up with a novel solution: a feet of specially designed school buses that would take education to children aged between three and seven in the most remote regions.
Since they launched in 2017, preschool enrolment has jumped from 27 per cent to 67 per cent, and aims to be at 80 per cent by 2026.
The feet of buses travel through the mountains, stopping in a different village each day, providing three hours of play-based learning to up to 16 children at a time. Each bus is fitted with solar panels to run air conditioning and a microwave oven, plus a tiny bathroom. They can function entirely off grid – a must in a region where electricity and running water can be scarce.
“Giving all children access to preschool education that is inclusive, caring and creative is key,” said Stefania Giannini, assistant director-general for education, Unesco. “Uzbekistan’s Kindergarten On Wheels project offers a model that can inspire countries around the world to reach the same goal.”
Main image: Ministry of Preschool Education of Uzbekistan
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