Why your child should not skip kindergarten education

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Nursery pupils working on their assignment at Aspire Rwanda Foundation in Gisozi, Kigali. / Faustin Niyigena

The Rwandan old adages, “uburere buruta ubuvuke,” loosely translated as “parenting is more than giving birth’’ and ‘‘igiti kigororwa kikiri gito’’, meaning “a tree is corrected when it is still young” carry the wisdom and philosophy of promoting good parenting during a child’s formative years. Also true is the fact that how a child performs at a higher education level relates a lot to their early childhood education experiences, especially kindergarten education.

The early childhood development policy of 2011 states that interventions in the early years have the potential to offset the negative trends and to provide young children with more opportunities and better outcomes in terms of access to education, quality of learning, physical growth, health and productivity. The policy shows that early investment is critical as delays in the early years are difficult and costly to reverse later in life.

Although children are not required by law to attend kindergarten, studies have shown that children who get this education derive many benefits from the experience. This begs the question; what is the cost of a child not getting kindergarten education?

Experts’ take

Felicite Warumbuka, a teacher at Little Flowers Nursery School in Kigali, says, when a child skips pre-primary education (nursery), they miss a lot as far as basic knowledge a child needs at this critical age is concerned.

She emphasises that pre-primary education is very necessary because it awakens, catalyses and quickens the broad thinking of a child.

“Kindergartens are the foundation for the intellectual capacity of the child. Parents should embrace them to reap their benefits,” she says.

Milcah Aziz, the director of the Blooming Buds Nursery and Primary School in Kigali, says that a child at nursery level is able to grasp language skills faster than their older counterparts.

“Therefore, when a child has skipped pre-primary education they are more likely to meet hindrances in understanding languages along their academic journey,” he says.

Camille Ntawuhiganayo, a teacher at GS Kicukiro, says that pre-primary education does not only improve a child’s mental development, but also enables them to learn the social skills they need to fit in the bigger world as they grow older.

“Children at nursery level quickly learn how to cooperate with others at an early age,” he says.

James Bigirimana, a teacher at GS Nyagasozi, says majority of children who attend nursery school are easy to teach, and they have proved to understand concepts faster.

“Teachers do not get a lot of trouble teaching kids who went through kindergartens since, for instance, they know how to read the alphabet and counting numbers,” he says.

On the other hand, Charles Hazabintwali, the project manager at Les Enfants de Dieu in Kigali, says pre-primary education helps in the social development and growth of children.

He says taking children to kindergarten is one way of reducing the number of street children.

“Children from poor families between 4-5 years tend to go to the street because they are redundant at home waiting to join primary school. Leaving a child redundant at home leads to moral decay because they can easily learn bad habits due to lack of proper parental guidance,” says Hazabintwali.

Hassan Thabitti, a parent whose children study at St. Louis Nursery School in Nyamirambo, Kigali, says children from poor families need to be supported so they too can benefit from pre-primary education like their age mates from wealthier families.

Claudine Mushimiyimana, the secretary of the Faculty of Business, Management and Economics at University of Kigali, says the Government needs to intervene to ensure that those nursery schools are built in rural areas.

Anatalie Nyirandagijimana, a child psychologist and pedagogical norms specialist in the science unit at Rwanda Education Board, says since the methodology for nursery education is theatrical and dramatic, it promotes the growth of a child’s memory and learning.

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Kindergarten children playing during break time. Such activities stimulate growth of social skills. / Faustin Niyigena

He emphasises that focusing on play as a teaching style stimulates a kid’s physical, intellectual, emotional and social growth as they gain more knowledge through activities such as drama, art and social games.

“When we are preparing the curriculum we advise kindergarten teachers to be tender so that children are prepared to love academics as they go to primary school level,” he says.

Gov’t position

Japheth Uwayo, the legal advisor at Rwanda Education Board, says nursery education is very essential for the growth of a child’s mind and ought to be promoted countrywide.

“Private kindergartens dominate urban centres and even the few working are not operating efficiently. That’s why the ministry of education had a progressive plan of building 400 kindergartens countrywide, though means to construct this infrastructure is still a challenge,” he said.

Meshach Bizimana, an economics specialist in Department of Languages and Humanities at Rwanda Education Board, says there are only 528 nursery schools countrywide, with only 1,206 schools having the nursery component.

“That is the reason why we are doing advocacy to have more funds to bridge the gap that is caused by the insufficiency of kindergartens. We are also working hard to see that at every primary school there is a kindergarten with at least one teacher,” he says.

He notes that they have employed district education officers in charge of primary and nursery levels to see that kindergartens are built in every district countrywide.

Impact on adult achievement

According to a 2011 study by Harvard economist Raj Chetty, students who attend quality kindergartens are more likely to go on to college, to save for retirement as adults, and earn more as adults. Researchers believe that kindergarten teaches skills like patience and perseverance and that learning these skills early contributes to later success as an adult.

Research, most notably the HighScope Perry Preschool Study, which tracked the lives of 123 young children born into poverty — has shown that kids from low-income and disadvantaged communities have even more to gain from early education.

In this study, which began in 1962, 3- and 4-year-olds were divided into two groups: One received high-quality preschool programming and one did not. By age 40, those who had attended preschool had higher earnings, were more likely to hold a job, had committed fewer crimes and were more likely to have graduated from high school than adults who did not attend preschool.

Research also shows that as kindergartners playfully create stories, castles, and paintings with one another, they develop and refine their abilities to think creatively and work collaboratively, precisely the abilities most needed to achieve success and satisfaction in the 21st century.

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YOUR VIEWS

Patricia Mbabazi, a mother of two
As parents, such an environment helps our children learn how to take care of themselves. For instance, a child is trained how to feed and dress themselves. For those who don’t know how to speak well, nursery school ensures that they improve on this skill by learning from others.

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Loice Gwiza, a parent from Kicukiro
Kindergarten education is important because it helps children break the monotony of staying at home, especially if they do not have other siblings. Pre-school provides a good environment for such kids to mingle and play with others. On the other hand, pre-school helps in parenting as children are able to learn new things which parents may not have taught them.

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Patricia Uwamahoro, a kindergarten teacher at Kurineza School, Gasabo
Children should be taken through nursery education because it is important in building their brains to deal with problems at higher levels. This foundation helps a child to appreciate why certain activities should be carried out at home or school.

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Christian Nkurunzinza, a parent from Kigali
For those children who are used to their parents and house helps only, taking them to a nursery school helps them to learn to interact and socialise with others. This environment empowers the child to communicate better as they grow.