UNICEF, SORWATHE join hands to advance early childhood development

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UNICEF country representative Ted Maly (second-right) gives his remarks as John Ntigengwa, the deputy director-general Imbuto Foundation (L), SORWATHE director-general Rohith Peiris (second-left), and Issa Nkurunziza, the National Agricultural Exports Development Board tea division manager, look on. / Timothy Kisambira

UNICEF and SORWATHE, yesterday, signed an agreement aimed at facilitating scale up of access to early childhood development (ECD) and preprimary education for children neighbouring tea factories and plantations in Gicumbi and Rulindo districts.

SORWATHE, a tea company operating in the Northern Province, works with 4, 500 households composed of farmers, factory workers, and surrounding communities.

The company has built four pre-primary schools serving 400 children as part of their efforts to give back to the community.

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Guests watch a documentary on  ECD before the signing ceremony at UNICEF headquarters in Kigali. / Timothy Kisambira

This partnership is expected to enhance and expand community services to more families, and will ensure appropriate care for children between 0-6 years whose parents and caregivers work in tea plantations, factory and its neighborhood. 

According to UNICEF, the agreement is part of its long-term plan to extend its support to the private sector in Rwanda to advance children’s rights to education, safety and health care.

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UNICEF Rwanda representative Ted Maly (L) chats with SORWATHE director general Rohith Peiris before the signing ceremony. / Timothy Kisambira

This will facilitate capacity building for parents, leaders and caregivers to create home-based early childhood development services as part of the government’s policy to improve school readiness and quality education.

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Siddartha (Sid) Shrestha, chief communication expert at UNICEF, gives a presentation on ECD before the signing ceremony at the UNICEF headquarters in Kigali. / Timohty Kisambira

“Investing in concrete ECD programmes, such as centre and home based child care and early literacy is the foundation of growing a well-developed (physically and mentally) generation that will serve the country. Since the programme started we have met significant gains but we want to reach as many children as possible through expanding partnerships. Now we believe this partnership with SORWATHE will pave the way for more future private sector partnerships in ECD,” said Ted Maly, the UNICEF country representative.

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SORWATHE director general Rohith Peiris signs documents with UNICEF Rwanda representative Ted Maly (centre),as Issa Nkurunziza, tea division manager at NAEB, looks on. / Timothy Kisambira
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SORWATHE director general Rohith Peiris poses for a photo with UNICEF Rwanda representative Ted Maly after signing the documents. / Timothy Kisambira

He observed that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) recognise that ECD can help drive the transformation of countries and that’s why early childhood development is such a strong focus of UNICEF, both globally and in Rwanda in particular.

Rohith Peiris, the director General of SORWATHE, said that since 2013, they have committed to supporting the education sector by building one pre-primary school each year (worth more than Rwf10 million) and they want to continue in the same direction.

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SORWATHE director general Rohith Peiris (L) exchanges documents with UNICEF Rwanda representative Ted Maly during the signing ceremony at the UNICEF headquarters in Kigali. / Timothy Kisambira

“We believe that children are the future workforce of the private sector and the country in general. Ensuring adequate development also requires investing in the future consumers and capable citizens. This is why we are happy to be part of this effort,” Peiris said.

So far, only 10 ECD centres have been built countrywide, serving 1,049 children.

The number of children who are not reached is still high and the long-term target is to build an ECD centre in each village, according to officials.

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