|© UNICEF Myamar/2013/MyoThame|
Four year old Su Yadana and her mother Saw Nwe at the ECD centre at Kawtbaw Post Primary School. Su Yadana enjoys reading books provided by UNICEF
By Ye Lwin
Kawkareik, Kayin State, 17 July, 2013:Saw Nwe, mother of four year old Su Yadana from Kawtbaw village is proud of her daughter who attends the UNICEF supported Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre with her friends.
Kawtbaw village is one of many small villages in Kawkaeik township in Kayin State. In Kawtbaw, there are about 90 households. In the past, there was no ECD centre for the children of the village with children aged three to five never having received ECD activities until UNICEF initiated the ECD programme in 2012 with funding from multi donors.
“It’s a really good start for my daughter. Now that she's got a chance to join the ECD centre, her performance at school has improved and so have her inter-personal skills with teachers and friends. She is very happy learning and playing with her friends at the centre,” said Saw Nwe.
Kawtbaw village has the second lowest socio-economic and education indicators of 220 primary schools in Kawkareik. In 2012, a UNICEF team visited 48 primary schools with low socio-economic indicators in Kawkareik with the express aim of setting up school-based ECD centres for children between ages three and five.
The UNICEF team organized the community, parents and teachers and staged an awareness raising meeting on the importance of ECD to the future development of children.
“The ECD centre is a very basic foundation for future development of every child. Without ECD experience, it is difficult for children when they go to school. ECD helps accelerate the learning of children at the kindergarten level,” said Aye Aye Win, headmistress from Kawtbaw Post Primary School which opened a school-based ECD centre with the support of UNICEF and donors last year.
Due to a general lack of ECD experience among children from the village, Grade 1results at Kawtbaw Post Primary School have not been too good. About 30-40 per cent of Grade 1 students have not been passing final exams. The vast majority of Grade 1 students fail to join Grade 2. "That’s why, the ECD programme is essential for every child. I want every child to pass Grade 1 as a matter of course without failing," said Aye Aye Win.
Almost all children between three and five are now participating in the ECD centre as a result of UNICEF awareness raising on the importance of ECD with parents and the village community more broadly.
UNICEF plays a strategic role when it comes to implementing ECD centres in Kawkareik in terms of awareness raising, training, technical assistance and initial capital inputs. UNICEF and donor support to school-based ECD centres is both technical and financial.
Financially, UNICEF and donors provide K500,000 to K700,000 for the construction of ECD centres depending on the given living standards of a village. Villagers are required to provide the rest of the construction funds. UNICEF and donors also provide K500,000 as a revolving fund to help accelerate the operation of an ECD centre for a longer-term period. The given community then generates the income from the revolving fund for the salary of the ECD facilitators either through micro-credit or small-scale village businesses.
UNICEF and donors also provide technical support in training of ECD volunteers and facilitators as well as ECD kits for the children. However it is the community itself that plays the lead role in developing the nature and scope of each school-based CED centre in close cooperation with UNICEF and donors. Community volunteers are recruited to facilitate the ECD programme with the Ministry of Education providing associated ECD training.
“I have been recruited as an ECD facilitator for my village’s ECD centre. First, I had to join the ECD training for one month. I learnt a lot in the training on how to best help children thrive and develop in early life,” said Saw Thet Htwe, ECD facilitator from the ECD centre at Kawtbaw Post Primary School.
ECD volunteers are provided with an UNICEF ECD kit box which contains educational toys aimed at promoting interpersonal skills and language development for children. Such items include illustrated children’s books, colouring pencils, construction blocks, puzzle blocks, dominos, and memory games.
With the support of UNICEF and donors, children who have not yet received any ECD support previously are entitled to join a school-based ECD programme across 48 primary schools in Kawtkareik and also across the rest of Myanmar through the Department of Social Welfare and local non-government organizations. In 2012, a total of 155,229 children participated in and learnt from ECD programmes across the country including 4,000 children living in areas affected by conflict and inter-communal violence.