The earliest years of a child’s life set the foundations for what’s to come.
Ensuring that young children have positive experiences, that their rights are guaranteed, and that their needs for health, stimulation and support are met is crucial to their well-being and development.
We now have insurmountable evidence of the benefits of early childhood programmes, which include helping children to have a smooth transition to primary school and a better chance of completing their education.
In the long term, these children have a greater chance of getting a better job, earning more money and increased social equality.
Yet the same evidence points to the fact that young children in greatest need, who also stand to gain the most, are unlikely to have access to these programmes.
Programmes for preschool children are scarce in most of the developing world and few – if any – programmes exist for children under the age of three.
We’ve been busy trying to work out how to close the gap in early years education so that young children get all the benefits that we know these services provide.
Better support for the under-threes
One viable Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) strategy that has the potential to address the lack of services for children under three is to support their parents and carers to provide better stimulation, care and education.
While programmes of this nature are now readily implemented in the industrialised world, they haven’t been widely adopted in developing countries.
Rwanda leads the way
Our aim is to develop and implement an innovative, cost-effective model of family learning that can be replicated at scale.
Our colleagues in Rwanda are working with us to do just that.
They are already pioneering the development of ECCD centres for children aged three to six.
Independently of our assessment of the importance of working with children under three, they asked us for help in meeting the demands of parents for exactly this sort of service.
It’s early days but if the success of their existing centres are anything to go by, then the demand for this programme is likely to be very high.
We firmly believe that supporting families of young children to play and learn together will yield big results, including helping to reverse the crisis in learning that we’re experience in much of the developing world.
Part of our approach will be the provision of age appropriate, locally produced reading material for parents to use with their young children, because we know that emergent literacy – the concepts, behaviours and skills that allow children to acquire reading and writing skills more easily in later years – are laid in these early years.
I’m particularly excited by this work, which is a core part of Save the Children UK’s new education strategy (to be revealed shortly).
In the meantime we’ll be busy working with our Rwanda country programme to develop this work there.
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