THE GOVERNMENT OF RWANDA THROUGH THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION IS CONSIDERING INCREASING THE LEVEL OF GOVERNMENT’S FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR PRE-PRIMARY FROM 0.1% OF BUDGET TO POTENTIALLY 3% PER YEAR ON AVERAGE (REVISED ESSP). THIS GREAT THINKING TALLIES WITH THE REVELATION THAT PLAN RWANDA HAS OF INCREASING SUPPORT IN THE SUB-SECTOR BY ENCOURAGING PROPER CHILD CARE SYSTEMS AND EARLY LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG CHILDREN BECAUSE IT HAS EVIDENTLY BEEN REVEALED THAT THESE TWO INTERVENTIONS ARE CRITICAL TO INCREASING ACCESS, RETENTIONAL, PERFORMANCE AND COMPLETION OF SCHOOLING IN RWANDA.
BY STELLA ASHIIMWE
Following the recently concluded Regional Meeting (Regional of Eastern and Southern Africa-RESA) to which Plan Rwanda belongs, the member countries applauded Plan Rwanda’s community led early chilhood care and development approach and the way it is done by and for the community.
The meeting that was held at Mill collines hotel kigali from 12th to 16th November hosted by Plan Rwanda also brought on board four Plan International National Offices including Plan Finland, Plan USA, Plan Germany and Plan Australia. The Regional Area of Asia (ARO) and West Africa (WARO) were also represented.
It is from this meeting that many of Plan International family committed to supporting interventions in Early Childhood Care and Development that Plan Rwanda is forward looking to.
“We have secured funding from Plan German that will support the establishment of eight role model centers in Bugesera District using adopted MINEDUC standards” the role model programming for Plan Rwanda will be hinged on four cornerstones/Pillars” for the past one and half years, Plan Rwanda has been in partnership with Gatsibo District to establish 15 community led ECCD centers that are now advanced and addressing the third pillar of transtion to primary.
Together with other stakeholders in education, Plan Rwanda has championed advocacy on Early Childhood Care and Development through National ECCD Task Force and ECCD working group under RENCP.
PUTTING THE CHILD’S FUTURE AT THE FORE
In the nippy evening air of the extreme south of Bugesera District, at Nyabyondo Village in Kamabuye Sector, Mukashema Claudine, 43, firmly straps her 2 year old baby at the back, intently listening to the field staff of Plan Rwanda visiting the area to explain the intricacies of child-sponsorship programmes and opportunities available. She is among the over 50 mothers and about 10 fathers gathered at the Nyabyondo Early Childhood Care Development Center today to be brought to speed.
Mukabazimya Peace, the Sponsorship Coordinator and Niyongabo Emmanuel, the Community Development Facilitator are trying to belabor the child-related programmes to be implemented, how the adoption/fundraising for children is implemented and why Plan Rwanda focuses more on general services other than individuals.
At the end of the 2-hour session, Mukashema comes out an optimistic mother. “At least if I can get the sponsorship for my 5 year old girl, Plan Rwanda will have contributed immensely to my whole life,” she enthuses. And Plan Rwanda has put the mechanics in place to answer Mukashema’s and other mother’s expectations.
According to the Country Director, Peter van Dommelen, Plan International, an international NGO operating in about 69 countries, has its Rwanda Chapter covering four programme areas all of which are child-centered; Girl education, Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD), Youth empowerment and Advocacy and child rights.
“The main developments of children take place before the age 4. So we emphasize the issues of nutrition, health, psycho social and emotional development, stimulate exploration and active learning which have a great bearing on the later lives of children.
The Government of Rwanda also puts much emphasis on childhood development considering the grading from 6 to 9 and now to 12 Year Basic Education and the Gross Enrollment. What has been lacking is the preparation during the pre-primary.
“So the idea of ECCD is to prepare the children before they embark on primary education and joining at the right age,” explains Mr. Van.
Plan Rwanda has tried different models, the Center-Based and the Home-Based Approaches.
According to the Education Programme Manager, Alfred Mupenzi, the ECCD implementation has 4 major cornerstones/pillars;
The Parenting Education is where Plan Rwanda works with parents using appreciative inquiry to enable parents learn together the child-rearing/parenting practices. This pillar has the Positive Deviant Approach /Child Development which puts emphasis on; physical development—nutrition, health, playing and exercise, Social Emotional Development—getting children together for interaction, Cognitive Development—thinking, learning, retention and critical thinking and Language.
Early Childhood Care Development Centers: Parents select 2 monitors/mothers per village and are charged with the responsibility of parenting education using a manual developed by Plan Rwanda. These work with two Care givers to work with children of age 0-6 years, introducing them to hands-on experiences. Children of 0-3 years are catered for under the Child Survival Programme while the 4-6 year old are under the School Readiness Programme.
Transition to Primary: Early learning is promoted in liaison with the primary schools that receive the children knowing they are not raw. At this level, Plan Rwanda emphasizes retention, performance and completion.
Policy and Advocacy: This is an important part of the whole spectrum of promoting child protection and rights. Currently, Plan Rwanda chairs the Rwanda Education NGOs Education Platform (RENCP) and represents NGOs in the Education Development partners Meeting. All the 30 Civil Society Organisations with an education component are brought together to have coordinated efforts, share experiences and having everyone represented.
The RENCP has working groups performing different oversight functions.
The Equity and inclusion group headed by Handicap International caters for special needs education, and girl child education.
The In-Service Teacher Development headed by VSO promotes teacher training and school-based mentoring (SBM) while the ECCD that deals with child survival/development programmes is headed by Save the Children. The Community involvement working group under RENCP and its major concern is to encourage parents’ and community involvement in education.
Plan Rwanda has so far established 15 ECCD Centers in Kiziguro and Murambi Sectors where ECCD activities are carried out. For the last 11/2 years, mothers come to the centers and do joint activities together twice a week.
Each center has at least 20 mothers and children. The land where the centers are was donated by the local people. They are simple structures where mothers gather and share parenting practices.
In Bugesera, a model ECCD Center has been established at Nyabyondo in Kamabuye sector with two parts; the interior for the children’s gathering and interaction an ample shade that can accommodate about 70 adults. “Here, at the shade, residents can meet, interact and or do other activities like crafts. In villages where places for social gatherings are not many, it can serve multi-functions,” explains Mr Dommelen, adding that during night it can be used as a revision/reading room by the adult children since it is to be installed with solar power. The $20,000 structure is well ventilated, has a pit latrine and supplied with water. All these give comfort and confidence to the children and adult users of the center.
The Country Director explains the center will be equipped with local material play equipment for the children to widen the domains of creativity. “And by acting as a community gathering place, it will strengthen cohesion, get the communities stronger and attract more parents to participate in the education of their children. Even the children learn better. In Plan Rwanda we emphasize involvement, participation and ownership. For the Nyabyondo Center, residents participated in the selection of the site and construction.”
He says the Nyabyondo Center, built with local materials, is in the middle of the village so that it can equally serve residents from all directions.
So far the major challenge participation. People ask the purpose and they just follow the suggestion. When an idea is introduce to the residents, they follow it without involving in discussions. But the stimulation of debates is slowly being sought through participation and ownership.
There is a country strategic plan (CSP) which runs up to 2013 and is aligned with the government EDPRS and other government priorities. A new CSP will be launched March 2013,. The Plan Rwanda Country Director says of the future; “The emphasis will continue to be ECCD, girl education and completion, protection of the children, provision and advocating for a safe learning environment.”