Providing a good start for children through Early Childhood Care & Development in Afghanistan

The sound of children can be heard repeating the alphabet “Alef, B, T, Se, Jim, H, Kh, Dal, Zal....”

A room full of colourful and well-designed educational materials provides children many opportunities to challenge themselves through seeing, touching, feeling and moving. This room enables a group of children to enjoy their childhood together.

"I am very proud to be a parent of a child that attended and completed the ECCD programme.”

At the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) spaces in Afghanistan, children between the ages of 5 and 6 years come together to participate in preschool learning opportunities that give them a chance to socialise and learn the basics they need to succeed when they enter formal education.

At each ECCD space, 30 children attend classes six days a week and are involved in age-appropriate educational and play activities, based on a specific learning curriculum.

Nazifa, 8, is one of the girls who was able to participate in ECCD classes two years ago. Today, she is one of the best students in her second grade class at the local public school.

ECCD classes help mothers learn too

Mothers in Afghanistan are busy. Women are responsible for washing, cooking and taking care of small babies in an area where the lack of electricity means almost everything has to be done manually. Although they may want to, mothers don’t have time to play with their children who are often sent outside to play with other children.

“I had noticed that Nazifa was a little bit rude and used impolite words while arguing with her sisters and brother,” adds Najiba. “Sometime she didn’t listen to my advice [and I would react angrily],” she recalled.

“In the ECCD sessions, I learned that [to discipline Nazifa] I should first calm myself if I was angry, and then think of an alternative punishment, like 'you can't watch TV tonight.’ I've noticed a big improvement in Nazifa’s behaviour,” she says.

Nazifa, now 8-years-old, participated in an ECCD programme run by World Vision Afghanistan. (Photo credit: Narges Ghafary / World Vision)

“In the kindergarten, I learned that we should wash our hands otherwise we will get sick.”

In addition to preparing children for school, the ECCD spaces also aim to improve health and child care knowledge and skills among caregivers. Thirty mothers attend the health education sessions on a weekly basis. The sessions, which focus on topics like cooking nutritious food, vaccinations, early initiation of breast-feeding and proper hygiene among other topics are designed to help women better care for their children. During the ECCD sessions, women also receive training on First Aid, women's and child rights, and health and hygiene. Women who attend the ECCD sessions then share their knowledge with their neighbours and relatives.

“My mother didn’t tell me to wash my hands before the eating and after using toilet,” explains Nazifa. “In the kindergarten, I learned that we should wash our hands otherwise we will get sick.”

“One day Nazifa asked me to buy her toothpaste and toothbrush,” remembers Najiba. “I was surprised and asked her who told her to use a toothbrush. I even tried to convince her that it wasn’t good for children to use toothbrushes,” she recalls. “The next day, I went to the kindergarten and I found out about the importance of brushing children’s teeth.”

Children are ready for success in school

According to a recent evaluation conducted by World Vision Afghanistan, children who have attended ECCD sessions were more ready and better equipped to start the learning process in formal education. The data indicates that the ECCD project has significantly contributed to improving the development of preschool age children in targeted areas. Children who participate in these programmes have improved school results, increased physical co-ordination and are able to read and write. They also appear to be more self-confidant and demonstrate better social behaviours compared to children who did not attend ECCD centres.

Children participate in a game outside an ECCD centre. (Photo credit: Narges Ghafary / World Vision)

"I am very proud to be a parent of a child that attended and completed the ECCD programme,” says Najiba. “The programme prepared my daughter for school with indispensable educational knowledge. It also taught her everyday skills essential to surviving in today’s society such as manners, the importance of good hygiene, health, feelings and compassion.”

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