Less than two months away from the opening date of our new Early Childhood Development Centre in Wandago, Uganda, we look at how we developed a model for best practice and why we’re ready to replicate.
The model we have created together with Children on the Edge Africa in Loco Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre, has been developed in partnership with Madrasa ECD Programme, who have over 25 years of experience in developing an approach that makes a real difference in children’s cognitive development and later success in school.
In conjunction with our own 28 years of experience working with vulnerable children and the use of our Child Protection Team model, this approach has produced a successful blueprint of best practice ECD, that is ready to replicate to new and different areas.
Supporting around 70 children aged 3-6 a year, the Centre is currently being considered for designation as a centre for excellence in the Eastern Region.
1. Community ownership
Loco Child Protection Team (CPT) work to identify the most vulnerable households, ensuring their children benefit from education. They encourage local families on the importance of education through a number of events (see photos above), meetings and celebrations, provide small business loans and support parents throughout the term, ensuring high retention rates.
2. Local culture
Teachers work to establish which language is most commonly used amongst Centre intake and adapt materials accordingly. They draw upon available local resources through all areas of teaching and learning, and focus on the strengths of local culture and values.
3. Quality child friendly curriculum
We use the Ugandan ECD Framework which was developed in consultation with UNICEF and Madrasa, which is a detailed curriculum of five core areas and an assessment framework to ensure children are learning and developing. Instead of rote learning, a regular day at the Centre will feature songs, dances, craft and games.
4. Health and socialisation
The Centre helps children to deal with routines, develop great friendships and improve behaviour so they can transition well to primary school. Regular health checks pick up concerns including malnutrition, which is addressed by the provision of high calorie porridge and nutritious snacks. Children arrive clean and washed and teachers focus on health and hygiene with songs, rhymes and regular hand washing routines.
It has resulted in improved:
1. Educational progress
We have seen core skills and learning improve significantly, with primary school teachers reporting that where young children previously started at primary school with no reading or writing knowledge and no means of coping within a classroom environment, now they arrive prepared to learn at the right level.
2. Valuing of education
The relationship between the teachers and the Loco CPT has yielded tremendous results in terms of attendance, with regular meetings encouraging parents on the importance of their children’s education.
3. Child Protection
Child Protection Teams have been key in ensuring that child protection cases are followed up, bridging the gap between the Centre and the parents. They follow up on cases identified by the teachers and often make home visits to ensure children are safe.
4. Health and Socialisation
After a few months of being at the Centre, children were visibly clean and healthy, despite being on the edge of malnutrition when they started. The external evaluation also identified huge progress with the socialisation of the children, with a teacher reporting that “Children’s discipline has changed. The way our children behave is not the way other children in the community who don’t access ECD or who attend other ECD Centres behave”.
We are hopeful that over time, this model Centre will become a training centre where Congolese teachers from this area can come to learn and develop their teaching skills, and improve the quality of early childhood education for refugee children across the region.
1. Schools are full of life
Rachel says, "We’ve been supporting nine Community schools for slum dwelling children in Cox’s Bazar for eight years now, and they are the best I’ve ever seen them. The children are absolutely full of life and energy".
Catering for over 900 children in the slums of Cox’s Bazar, these schools have become model learning environments which have shaped our work an hour down the road in the Kutupalong camp, which leads us nicely to the next highlight…
2. Colourful classrooms
“The 150 classrooms we run in Kutupalong camp for Rohingya refugee children are now fully up and running, and extremely vibrant, colourful and creative. Children that have been through such trauma need a safe and happy place to come, where they are free to express themselves. This is certainly evident in these spaces that are filled top to toe with their artwork. After what they have witnessed and what they are going through, these children lack the confidence of their counterparts in Cox’s Bazar, but we know that this model works to bring about a sense of safety and well-being as time goes by and the teachers are well trained to make learning fun and to address trauma.”
3. Oasis areas in the camp
"Not only are the classrooms colourful on the inside, but the shrubs and flowers that were planted when we began building in May are now growing and blooming. The idea is that we create an oasis feel in the barren, cramped landscapes of the camp. There isn’t much room to do this, but we’ve used the space we have to help the children feel they are entering a whole new environment, that is just for them”.
4. Schools on a shoestring
“In India what struck me was how much we are in the right place, supporting Navjeevan in their work. They’re currently providing 20 schools on a shoe string in some of the most awful slums I’ve seen. These areas are worse than Kutupalong, yet they get no media attention or support. Despite the continual oppression Dalit children live under, they are clean, happy and confident at the Centres and learning well, this is an incredible achievement when you see where they live each day”.
5. Computer classes
“Our partners here in India, thanks to the generous support of our donors, have begun IT classes for children and young people in the slums. These have been incredibly popular and are already resulting in young people being able to get jobs they would never have been able to without developing these skills”.
There were some fantastic entries, with the five best-looking cakes shortlisted for tasting in order to determine the winner. The crown of Make It Cheaper’s Best Baker eventually went to Kelly – a cake Manon said she could eat all day! The Bake Off raised £400 for Children on the Edge and significantly added to the waistlines of all the staff as well.
Manon was delighted to help support the Bake Off saying: "I didn't think twice when I was asked to join and donate one of my cakes to help Children on the Edge! I didn't do that much, but I hope with this extra money raised, it will make a little difference to some children in need and give them a brighter future!"
Make it Cheaper have supported Children on the Edge since 2017 and are always looking for new and exciting ways to get our staff involved with fundraising. Having held bake sales, karaoke nights, raffles and even completed a Tough Mudder, they have raised more than £38,000 in the past 18 months.
Dan O’Sullivan from Make it Cheaper helps cheer on and organise their fundraising and shared how “The chance to support a charity that does such vital work with vulnerable children across the world is one that we relish – especially with two members of staff having visited Uganda to witness first-hand the impact of COTE’s projects”.
If you could support Children on the Edge at your workplace we would love to hear from you, email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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