Sandwiched between China and India, Nepal is home to the Magar Kham people, who inhabit the hills in the Rukum, Rolpa and Baglung districts. Although they are one of the oldest known tribes in Nepal, their origins are unclear. Their language, dances and culture suggest that they are of Tibetan heritage. The Magar consist of two major groups (Eastern and Western Magar) and the language is divided into four groups. Typically hardworking, sincere, and self-reliant, the majority of Magar are artisans and craftsmen; those who own land have turned to farming; and others labour as miners, blacksmiths and basket weavers. They perform a variety of dances and play tribal games regularly. The Eastern Magar most commonly dress in loincloths and bhotos (shirts with sleeves), although western clothes are gradually gaining popularity. They dwell in stone buildings with slate or thatch roofs. Generally, marriages are arranged between maternal cousins with a “bride price” of money or alcohol. Magar communities practise ethnic religions along with a significant number of Buddhists.
Magar community members and mother-tongue speakers must embrace the responsibility and ownership for the project's decisions, implementation, management, monitoring, and reporting. The aims of the Literacy project among the Magar Kham communities include developing a relevant and applicable orthography suitable to the language of focus. Linguists and others will aid in this process and make suggestions. Workshops will be held for the preparation of a ‘spelling guide’ and for the development of teaching materials (primers) as well as other written material. The Magar Kham community is stimulated to participate. Mother-tongue literacy is illustrated as a stepping stone to further education and secure the future of the members of the community. Materials are tested within the community and adapted to suit the acceptance, intelligibility, and relevance. Literacy classes will take place when the materials have been developed.
As of January 2021
The Magar Kham literacy team, in partnership with mother-tongue speakers, have successfully developed an orthography to be assessed in the community. Alphabet charts and spelling guides have been introduced in the community villages. The Magar people have started writing in their heart language. Literacy teams have been put together and are ready for literacy workshops, and receiving training. Preparations are nearly complete and literacy materials will soon be developed, written and illustrated by the members of the community. Through the programme, the students discover the link between reading, writing, thinking, and knowing. This cognitive process takes place naturally and easily because it all happens in the language they think in and know best.