Radio Guru is an innovative free radio education programme broadcasting the highest quality pre-recorded lessons to tens of thousands of Nepal’s school-age children. The programme aims to boost grades for those in school and to provide some access to education for children, and adults, not in schooling. Radio Guru has been used extensively in blind schools, by adult listeners, and teachers. Research shows that Radio Guru listeners perform better in their all-important end of school exams.
Since 2007, the Mountain Trust has been broadcasting high quality lessons on FM radio – six out of seven evenings a week, during term times throughout the Western Region of Nepal. 75% of Nepalis can receive FM Radio broadcasts compared with around 25% able to access TV and some 12% with access to the internet. Bearing in mind that electrical 'load-shedding' (scheduled power-cuts) can last between 4 & 14 hours a day, the Trust has targeted the greatest number of students able to listen in by FM Radio. Above is a short film explaining the initiative narrated by Jon Snow of Channel 4 News.
There are many barriers to a student receiving a quality education in Nepal. Teacher training is weak and frequently teaching posts are partially or entirely under-resourced. It might be a two hour walk to school each way for those able to afford the the fees – and then there are the monsoons. And many families cannot afford the costs of schooling or loss of labour on the family small holding.
Added to this students face wild disparities in resources and accessibility between rural and urban schools. A recent study showed that only 50% of girls in rural areas ever attend school and, consequently, 60% of rural women are illiterate.
Those able to afford road transport on the bus may be stymied by avalanches, impassable mud, or high river levels at crossings. Children who are able to attend school, however they get there, are distinguished by their blue and white uniforms, a great source of pride for many students and parents alike. However, access to high quality education remains a challenge in rural areas and gender and other disparities persist.
The idea behind the Trust’s Radio Guru broadcasts is to allow access to education for children, wherever they live and irrespective of whether or not they go to school.
We are delighted that Cambridge University’s Humanitarian Centre have featured Radio Guru in their first two annual reports on innovations deriving from Cambridge in International Development. Our work has also been featured in Himalayas Nepal magazine and on BBC radio.
We update content annually based on the current Nepali curriculum content and we are always developing links to other radio stations and networks to get our content syndicated. We are also exploring ways of creating more interactive content and hosting it online. The Trust’s eventual aim is to buy a regional FM Radio Station and broadcast top quality educational programmes from the begininng of Primary to the end of Secondary Education plus adult Civic and Health Education.
In late 2013 St James' Place Foundation generously provided a grant of £2,000 to replace and upgrade a significant proportion of Radio Guru content. With this assistance Radio Guru's curriculum content was improved to meet the needs of learners in their final year of secondary education. The grant also paid for the continuing broadcasts of the programme.