A safe place for young children to grow

"I am happy to see my child getting proper care here," shares Salina, mother of two-year old Manish who has just started attending the Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre in a village in Lekhnath Municipality, Kaski district in western part of Nepal. Manish, along with 15 other children, attends the centre for children ages 2-4. Built in 2004 with the support of World Vision, the centre today is run by the local community. 

The ECD centre takes care of children’s development and nutrition by providing a healthy meal once a day. The children are fed rice pudding and lito (super flour) at the centre. The children are also taught games, rhymes and songs with messages on health and hygiene.

Anju Pariyar, ECD facilitator, who has been taking care of children in the centre for the past nine years says, “Before we ran this centre, children often stayed home or went to the fields with their parents, who are mostly marginal farmers. The centre has also improved the health of children. Many children who come from poor families and who were malnourished become healthier here.”

The centre is now registered in the District Education Office (DEO) and is being supported by the local mother’s group, which takes care of the maintenance and cleanliness of the centre. A management committee meets every month and contributes a minimum of 50 rs. which is kept as a fund to sustain the centre.

Training has been provided to the management committee, teaching materials have been provided by the municipality. Patneri ECD centre has been recognised by the DEO as a model ECD centre in Kaski. With their children attending the ECD centre, mothers can see that their children are developing both physically and socially.

Many children who come from poor families and who were malnourished become healthier here.

Young children in poor areas of Kaski have little access to child development activities to help their physical and social growth. Cultural, gender, and social biases have meant that many issues of child development and maternal health care have not been addressed. Most mothers work in the fields and therefore have little time to attend to their children. They leave young children with older siblings or alone at home in home-made swinging bamboo cribs.

Most women do not understand that young children have any special developmental needs, and most regard the role of the father in a child’s upbringing as minimal. The government has set up Early Childhood Development centres in many places in Nepal, but they are not accessible to everyone.

To address the developmental needs of young children in the area Kaski ADP works in, in 2004 it started to work with the parents of young children, to improve parents and caregivers’ understanding through training sessions on child growth and development, nutrition, immunization, safety and protection, and maternal health care. The training emphasised how young children learn through playing – an unusual concept for parents who are used to focussing on the cycles of planting and harvesting as their main priorities.

World Vision has helped communities build 10 early childhood development centres in Kaski. The centres were built with local labour. World Vision paid for 2 early childhood workers to be employed in each centre.  The benefits have become evident in the years the centres have operated – they have helped malnourished children and their families to find home-based solutions to improve their health.

Children who have attended the centres go on to perform better at school than those who have not – they are more curious about their environment and more resilient.

Today these centres are registered at the District Education Office and village-based management committees run the centres and raise funds to support their operations.

World Vision’s work in the area of early childhood care and development in Kaski district from 2001 to 2013 has benefitted 5400 children and mothers.

By Alina R Shrestha