Proudly administering The Himalayan Literacy Network (THLN/BMS)

 The Shepherd Schools story

The first experimental mobile school was opened in 2005 by a current Shepherd Schools staff member who learned to read as an adult. In 2007, the program became officially known as the Bakarwal Mobile Schools (BMS) and since then, over 3000 nomadic children and approximately 40 adults have received a basic education through this program.

The Shepherd Schools motto: Every Shepherd a Scholar. Every Scholar a Shepherd.”

Educational Model

The model developed by the Shepherd Schools program has proven to be an excellent fit for the students, the teachers, and the nomadic Bakarwal lifestyle:

  • Both boys and girls get free education at their doorsteps in their mother tongue within their own cultural environment.
  • The Shepherd Schools provide the ONLY opportunity for nomadic Bakarwal girls to receive an education in Northern Pakistan.

  • It requires few materials to carry up and down mountains.

  • Teachers’ manuals (based on Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons) provide additional instructional support as teaching occurs in isolated locations. (Teachers now call the manuals “the second teacher”) .

  • There are few trained Bakarwal teachers. Because this approach is scripted, functionally literate Bakarwals (with at least a third-grade education) can be trained to teach the highly focused 20-minute lessons.

  • The orthography of Gojri had just been standardized and linked to Urdu (a result of Losey’s research), so it is now easy for children who learn to read and write in Gojri to make the leap to Urdu (the national language); then, knowing more about how languages work, into English (the international language).

  • Using a phonetic approach to teaching children to read in their heart language produces better understanding and superior results compared to traditional sight word memorization otherwise used to teach all children in Pakistan how to read in Urdu.

  • This trilingual model provides a much-needed MTB (Mother Tongue Based) - MLE (Multilingual Education) program with a future-oriented perspective for the Bakarwal communities.                                

    The curriculum

  • Nursery (4-5-years-old): Introduction to beginning reading and writing in Gojri

  • Prep: Consolidation of Gojri literacy, shift in reading to Urdu, recognition of English alphabet

  • Grades 1-3: Storybooks in Mother tongue, the inclusion of government curriculum (Urdu, English and math are the major subjects)

  • Grades 4-5: Government curriculum with studies in Urdu and English only                                      

    Matriculation results for those who have completed the 5th grade:

  • Aslam Academy has achieved 100% matriculation into higher grades since 2015 (80 of 80 students completing 5th grade). All students from Aslam Academy have also successfully passed the grade 5 government exam and received a recognized government certificate.

  • The rest of the Shepherd Schools have achieved an 88% matriculation rate (29 of 33 students completing 5th grade) to higher learning since 2016. They are also welcome to challenge the government exam, but time away from the flocks, travel costs, and possible lack of a national identity card (due to no permanent address) make it prohibitive for most.                                                                             Achievement                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Since 2007 over 3000 nomadic children and approximately 40 adults have received a basic education through this program.