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.
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