Last week, 41 teachers graduated from Premier ECDE (Early Childhood Development and Education) Teachers College as the country increasingly embraces pre-primary education.
Following the adoption of the national Early Childhood Development (ECD) policy in 2011, such centres have increasingly sprung up across the country, with government, UNICEF, Imbuto Foundation, among other partners, playing a key role in this effort.
Some 6,400 children aged between 0-6 years have gone to early childhood centres in the country over the last four years or so.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony last week, the First Lady and founder of Imbuto Foundation, Mrs Jeannette Kagame, said the steady progress the country is making in the area of ECDE is testament to the ability of Rwandans to devise solutions to their problems.
ECDEs, according to UNHCR, offer “holistic development of all children through the provision of integrated health, nutritional, early stimulation and learning, and protection services to families, communities and children”.
Today, there are at least 11 early childhood development centres in 11 districts that host more than 6000 children in total.
These centres are not only a critical tool to enhance children’s growth, including their cognitive, emotional and social development, but they are also safety nets as far as nutrition is concerned.
They are also important in the government’s efforts to fight poverty and promote prosperity as their parents – particularly women – are afforded a chance to go about their work, whether on the farmland or otherwise, to develop their families.
But these childhood development centres also introduce children to schooling early on in their life, equipping them with basic arithmetical and reading skills before starting formal education.
Importantly, there are other social benefits that these centres offer: learning how to relate with other children, lessening the possibility of kids ending up on the street because of lack of proper care at home, as well as enhanced social cohesion and a sense of common identity and shared destiny among both the parents of these toddlers as the children themselves.
That these centres are taking care of children in their formative years is very critical to the country’s future as they play a key role in shaping these children into responsible citizens in the future.
The significance of these centres cannot be overemphasised. We hope that more will continue to be set up and impact the lives of Rwandans.
That said, there is need to ensure that these centres are professionally run and that communities they serve do not only understand the concept but also own it.
There is need to train more ECDE teachers and caregivers while communities need to be further empowered to ensure that they partake in the running and maintenance of these facilities.