Elijah is 4 years old and he started baby class at Loco ECD Centre a few terms ago. During the first parent -teacher meeting, Elijah’s father mentioned that he can be mischievous at home and needed close supervision. Doreen is Elijah’s teacher, and she noticed within the first few weeks that he often snatched snacks from other children, would always disappear outside the class and didn’t seem to trust anyone apart from his mum and dad.
Refugee communities have hit the ground running in impressive style, preparing for the strengthening of early years education in Kyaka II settlement, Uganda. Since the launch announcement of the programme in May, new staff have been engaging in high quality training and creating colourful learning resources for centres.
On the 20th June each year, the world commemorates the strength, courage, and resilience of millions of refugees. Around the world more than 50 million people have fled their homes, and over half of these are children.
The refugee children we work with in Lebanon, Bangladesh and Myanmar all show great strength, courage and resilience every day, surviving in some of the toughest places around the world. On World Refugee Day 2019, we wanted to take the time to share some of their thoughts and experiences.
Kyaka II refugee settlement, close to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), has approximately 700 new arrivals each week over 65% of which are children. Having fled armed conflict, ebola, and horrific human rights abuses, many suffer extreme trauma as a result of witnessing the brutality of war and displacement. They face serious child protection risks and have nowhere safe to go during the day.
The youngest refugee children need support
A number of NGOs are providing primary education in Kyaka II, but early years education provision is limited for the youngest children, at a vital time in their development. Our assessment showed a need for up to 30 Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres across 30 communities within the settlement.
In these communities, local people are doing the best they can to provide early years learning, but provision and resources are variable at best. While some communities are doing well, with Centres in a relatively good state of repair, others have non-existent provision and broken down venues that are not fit for purpose. Many Centres lack consistent quality teacher training, or well established community ownership. Without this, trained teachers have no incentive to use their training locally, and leave to find jobs in other areas of Uganda, and communities have no support or resources to maintain provision.
Resourcing communities to provide early years education
Through training and targeted resourcing, we aim to support 30 refugee communities in Kyaka II camp, to replicate our model of best practice, ensuring high quality, cost effective ECD for their children.
With multiple conflicts stretching across vast areas of the country, The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is one of the world’s most complex and long-standing humanitarian situations.
Civilians here are exposed to gross human rights violations, sexual and gender-based violence, chronic malnutrition, and various health epidemics including the serious spread of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).
No sooner have we announced the launch of our new project in Kyaka II refugee camp, Uganda, and the videos and photos of training and preparation are already flooding in from our partners.
Kachin State is the northernmost state of Myanmar (also known as Burma) and is bordered by China to the north and east. The Kachin people are an ethnic minority in Myanmar, a highland indigenous people with rich traditions.
Historical tensions between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Myanmar government have intensified over the last seven years, placing civilians at huge risk.
A 17-year ceasefire was broken by Burmese troops in June 2011, heavy shelling near civilian populations was commonplace and women reported many incidents of systematic rape by the Burmese Army.
Human Rights Watch reported government soldiers blocking needed humanitarian aid, torching villages and firing on innocent civilians and Fortify Rights have extensive evidence of systematic torture being used as an attack on civilians.
Conflict intensified again at the start of 2018 and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimate that around 97,000 people remain displaced in Kachin State, spread across 140 camps. Our partners estimate the numbers on the border to be more in the region of 120,000.
More than 46% of those displaced are living in areas beyond government control where international actors have very limited humanitarian access. Those living in the crowded Internally Displaced People's (IDP) camps are terrified, cut off from vital aid and still subject to regular military attack.
As central government appears determined to crush the last remaining pocket of armed resistance in Myanmar, their recent tactics have been increasingly harsh. With significant natural resources and political influence at stake, the human tragedy is worsening, and largely ignored by the international community.
Thousands of Kachin children are forced to cope in very difficult circumstances with little support for their healthy development. Many children here under the age of 6, have known little else but war.
Daily life offers few chances of respite from the effects of violence and they have no access to early years education, creative play and psychosocial support.
Around a year ago, we reported how the Kachin communities we work with in the remote displacement camps of Kachin State Myanmar, were beginning to lose hope. Having faced over seven years of being trapped in high altitude camps, cut off from basic services and humanitarian aid, the motivation that carried them through the first season was waning.
Living through what they describe as a ‘slow genocide’, while international attention remains on other crises around the world, 100,000 Kachin civilians endure terrible conditions, and remain ignored. Throughout 2018 these people have faced the threat of continued forced displacement, spontaneous return, land grabbing, and a continuing decrease of humanitarian aid. This has all increased the difficulty of providing for their families, facilitating transportation and facing weather conditions of less than minus ten degrees during winter.
Not only are children aged 3-6 cut off from early learning facilities, but our local partners (KDG) report that most camps have limited opportunities for playing, with terrain being unsuitable to build playgrounds, and little access to play materials. Consequently many older children disappear to the forests and find dangerous places to play.
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.