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Imbuto Foundation officially launches ECD&F Gikomero

In recent years, early childhood development research has led to the realisation that the most crucial aspects of a child’s life are susceptible to change in the first three years. In Rwanda, this realisation led to an Early Childhood Development Policy being signed in September 2011.

It was important to the country, in accordance with its stance on education and health, that vulnerable children in far out communities were afforded every opportunity to guarantee their bright futures. Within the policy, it was highlighted that in order for early childhood development to be a success, it was essential that families be included in the process. Thus, the creation of the Early Childhood Development & Family programmeto provide health and education services to children under 6, and their families.

July 2013 marked the first success in the journey of ECD&F, with the inauguration by First Lady Mrs Jeannette Kagame, of the first ECD&F centre located in Kayonza district. To date, this successful model has been replicated, with nine centres constructed in different parts of Rwanda.

These centres were built with the purpose of not only helping children in developing skills in readiness for school, but also as a centre to teach parents the importance of raising healthy, well nourished and educated children.

Trained health workers and caregivers are the foundation of the whole ECD&F programme. Without them, ECD&F would not be able to educate the members of the community.

Since opening its doors in August 2014, the ECD&F built in Miyove sector in Gicumbi district, has seen over 200 children enrolled in the programme. From the architectural design, to the use of space, these centres are built with sustainability in mind. This allows the community to see the possibilities of building many more centres within their own capacities in the future.

While visiting Miyove ECD&F centre it is very clear that the children are in safe hands. At first glance they seem to be like any other children seated in a classroom. It is only after realising their age, that it occurs to one, that these children are special. They interact, and communicate in ways far greater than their tender ages.

The centre features classrooms designated for the care and growth of a child’s mind. The classes separated into age groups ranging from 0-6 years old, feature curriculums that are in accordance with the children’s age. Within these classes, caregivers, who are in charge of teaching the children, are able to provide an environment of learning and growth. The lessons taught are simple enough for children of such young ages to follow; many of the topics range from learning to counting and reading, to understanding the importance of hygiene.

ECD&F programme follows a curriculum that emphasises the importance of raising healthy and alert children from the pregnancy stage to six-year-old children, this being the most sensitive period in a child’s life. This is why these centres are also geared towards educating the parents in these communities on the importance of a holistic approach to children’s care.

Health workers conduct classes outside and within the centre for parents that eager to learn how to improve health wise, their children’s lives, as well as their own. The health factor does not only focus on nutrition, but on the importance of bonding and maintaining an educational relationship with their children.

On 29 October this year, Gasabo district introduced its first centre. As an innovation in Gikomero sector, it is hoped that the children and parents of this community will fully embrace this programme, and will progressively play a more active role in the implementation of activities conducted at that centre.

Considering the success this programme has had in every community where it has been implemented, one can realistically hope for the same outcome in Gikomero.

While there are currently not enough centres to welcome every child, it is hoped that these communities will take it upon themselves to replicate this programme in all parts of the country. For that purpose, an increasing number of parents are being trained in home-based ECD care so that more children can access the same opportunities offered in the traditional ECD centres. These efforts are in fact aimed atlevelling the field in a sector that embodies one of our proudest achievements as a nation – education.