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Rwanda: Early childhood centres – community participation in action

In the northern Rwandan province of Gisenyi, Save the Children has recently begun to support a local community in creating an Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centre.

Until the new centre is built, the local Catholic Church has kindly lent the group a temporary space to run our ECCD activities.

During our trip we met with the parents’ committee to discuss the challenges they are facing in running the early childhood centre. This helps us understand the issues and provide the most adequate support to this centre and the other 23 we assist around the country.

Save the Children meets with the Parents' Committee of an ECCD Centre near Gisenyi, in Northern Rwanda

Overcrowding

In general, Save the Children aims to have about 100 children aged 3-6 in each centre.

However, this particular facility has become oversubscribed: there are nearly two hundred children who want to attend!

Jean-Baptiste, an advisor on the parents’ committee which runs the centre, says that it started off with just 100 pre-primary aged children registered, but parents in the neighbouring areas were so impressed that they started bringing their children too.

Safe environment

In this part of Rwanda many adults work just across the border in Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and it is extremely helpful for them to have a safe and stimulating place for their children to spend a few hours each day.

Otherwise, children are regularly left alone for long periods of time, which is detrimental to their development.

Jean-Baptiste would like to solve this issue of overcrowding by encouraging a neighbouring village to set up a second ECCD centre; this will allow all 200 children to receive quality attention, with a good ratio of children to caregivers.

Vulnerable children

A specially trained care-giver carries out activities to familiarise children with the building blocks of school

Parents  are asked to provide a small monthly contribution to the running of the centre.

Many children who attend this centre come from families which are so poor that they are unable to pay the required 3,000 Rwandan francs (about £4) for annual government health insurance for their children.

This is particularly the case of children who are HIV positive, and are very vulnerable to other diseases.

Cecile, an advisor to the parents’ committee, has suggested that the rest of the community agree to support these very poor children so that can join the government health system.The parents’ committee will discuss this suggestion at their next meeting.

Security

We’re supporting this community by building the new ECCD centre. The small complex will contain: two teaching rooms and a small kitchen where porridge can be prepared.

There will also be several sanitary latrines, a small room for tired children to rest, a small room for health checks to take place, and a fenced-off playground.

At the moment it is still being built but Jean-Baptiste expressed a concern for the security of the teaching materials once the ECCD centre is up and running.

Nightguard

He approached the local authorities who are extremely supportive of the initiatives to support young children, and they have agreed to provide a night guard to ensure the building and its contents are safe.

The meeting with the parents’ committee shows that our work in this area  has a very positive impact on young children and communities.

But there are still many challenges to overcome if we are to ensure that children aged 3-6 receive some early childhood support before they begin primary school.

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