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A head start for young learners

Local children dance and sing to music

Thanks to Barouéli’s Canadian sponsors, the construction of two new Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) centres that were started last fall is progressing well. And while they’re still under construction, the community’s Plan-trained “education mothers” are caring for children in temporary structures so that local kids can begin benefiting from the new preschool programs now.

To enrich their experience, toys have been distributed to the two temporary centres, creating great excitement among the youngest children in Barouéli.

From puzzles and flash cards, to soccer balls, jump ropes, dolls and cars, an array of play materials has been made available to local children for the first time ever. And because music is one of the best learning tools for young children, the preschool program now has a range of musical instruments that are teaching children how to play and learn together.

Already, parents are seeing a positive difference in their children.

“In the beginning, my daughter used to cry when we took her to the center,” says Ousmane, a local farmer and father. “But now she wakes up very early and can’t wait to go and see her friends. Thanks to the work of the education mothers, my daughter now says ‘good morning’ to people and uses “please’ and ‘thank you’. The center has already changed her so much.”

Early childhood is a crucial time for development. With abilities progressing at an astounding rate, a high proportion of learning takes place between 0-6, making ECCD invaluable for later success in school and life, especially for children growing up in poverty.

In poor communities in the developing world, early childhood is also a very vulnerable time for children, with one in five dying before the age of five. With this in mind, Barouéli’s broad-ranging community-based preschool services also include health care, hygiene and sanitation, as well as nutrition, child protection, and even birth registration.

“The education mothers have been trained and are sharing their knowledge with parents,” says Amadou, a Plan community worker. ”Children are in a safe, nurturing environment, and will be better prepared to attend school.”

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