An Integrated Approach for Quality Early Childhood Care and Development
Children of 10 Early Childhood Care and Development Centers (ECCD) in Matara in Southern province, Sri Lanka are now receiving quality education in the ECCD centers and at home. These children are benefitted by a project “Quality Early Childhood Care and Development in Matara District” funded by Porticus Asia and implemented by Save the Children.
The project has an integrated approach. First, the physical quality of the ECCD centers is developed; second, the capacity of ECCD teachers is improved by facilitating the Provincial Department of Education to conduct a Highger Diploma Course and a Certificate course on ECCD. From This the teachers are trained and well qualified. Third, the Home Based ECCD is ensured and the gap between home and ECCD center is reduced. And for this 10 ECCD committees attached to the mentioned 10 ECCD centers have been formed with the involvement of the parents and the community.
Little Sound ECCD Center in Pitabeddara, Matara is a place where a clear change is visible. The ECCD center has been conducted for 10 years by the ECCD teacher Surangi. She started the center with 8 children. The teacher is only qualified with her 13 years of career experience but not academically. The physical condition of the ECCD center had not been satisfactory. The number of children who attended this ECCD center also was limited earlier as many parents prefered their children to go to other ECCD centers closer to the city. According to the teacher “We had lots of shortcomings in this ECCD center. Also the parents of these children earlier didn’t have a close relationship with the ECCD center”
The teacher further said “with the involvement of Save the Children now the ECCD Center has a new look. Now we have two new toilets and a renovated building. The children have received new play materials and new chairs. Above all parents very enthusiastically take part in activities to develop the ECCD center and they constantly follow up. Establishment of the ECCD committee has become very useful in this. And now the number of children attending has increased upto 25 in 2014. The parents prefer sending children to this ECCD Center knowing now it is with good quality”
The parents of the children in the ECCD Center are now well organized and they take lead in maintenance and sustainability of the ECCD center. Ramani a mother of four year child shared her ideas saying “I am a member of the ECCD committee formed with the support of Save the Children. Now the parents of the children in ECCD are cooperative. We have been taking part in different training programs conducted by Save the Children. After that training programs our committee visited each an every house in the village where children under five live. We make those parents aware of the importance of home based ECCD. Also we sweat in constructing a new building the toilets and a play park of this ECCD Center” Save the Children and Provincial Department of Education in Southern Province monitored the quality of these constructions to ensure the protection of the children.
All the ECCD Center committees have a trust fund. And the ECCD Center committees are trying to increase the financial capacity of those funds. Save the Children trained the parents on producing hand made items such as shoes, bags, hats etc. which are being sold by the ECCD Center committee. The income is saved in the ECCD fund to be used in children’s needs. This fund will ensure the sustainability of the ECCD Centers.
Deepthika, a mother of 5 years old girl willingly shared her experience of home based ECCD. “When the first time I got to know about home based ECCD I cried regretting for not taking care of my child in the correct way”
Her daughter Ridmi is a very active child. But according to her mother she used to be aggressive and hostile to others, and not much closer to the mother. But after Deepthika taking part in training programs conducted by Save the Children she has started directing the child to aesthetic activities like dancing and drawing; and also she has started practicing other child care methods. Now Ridmy has her own play house where she spends happy time, and also her own book corner with books with colourful pictures. Deepthika said ‘’now Ridmi is friendly with others. She warmly welcomes visitors to the home. She controls her anger’’
Ridmi while playing in her play house said “I have many friends in the preschool. I love to play with them. Yesterday we went a trip from the preschool and all of us went to see the sea” And she showed us some of her drawings as well.
Save the Children conducts this project with the Provincial Ministry of Education. Kulasinge Weerasekra, Assistant Director of Non Formal and Special Education of Provincial Department of Education, Southern Province who has been engaged in the project gave an overall view about the project approach. The Statute of the Preschool No.2 of 2008 Southern Province guarantees legal provision to ensure the quality and standards of the pre schools. The Assistant Director mentioned “our aim is to standardize all the preschools in Southern province by 2016 and licence the preschools which fall into our criteria. We categorize the pre schools using the categories which are; teacher’s qualifications, the physical condition of the preschool and educational background and psychosocial background of the preschool. We highly appreciate the involvement of Save the Children in improving quality of ECCD centers to maintain the mentioned standards, so we can give quality education to the children through a proper system”