Initiative Update: Early Childhood Development
Firelight is working with 18 grassroots organizations in Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia to strengthen their programs in early childhood development and their organizational management. Over the last few months, our early childhood development (ECD) initiative partners from Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi have been sending us their reports on their 2014 activities and proposals for activities in 2015. While we communicate with our partners throughout the year, the report and proposal process really give us a broader understanding of the activities they engage in, and the impact they have on children and families in their communities.
We're also able to see strategy trends across our partners. Many partners are working to improve the care and learning environment at ECD centers. This includes constructing or improving facilities, supporting the development of low-cost learning and play materials from local resources, and training the caregivers/teachers and management committees at the ECD centers. Many of our partners also provide meal programs at their ECD centers, recognizing the high levels of poverty faced by families in their communities. Our partners also bring parents together to discuss how they can support their children's development despite the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis.
In Malawi in particular, the recent floods wiped out crops in many communities. While our Malawi partners generally aim to make meal programs as self-sustainable as possible, in this situation, they had to respond quickly to the emerging situation and contribute funds towards the meal programs at the centers. On the one hand, it is important for programs to be self-sustaining; on the other hand, the ability of community-based organizations to provide this sort of immediate support in emergency situations can be invaluable to a community getting its ECD program off the ground.
Our Lead Partners have also been supporting the collection of data from children on the Zambia Child Assessment Test (ZamCAT). We first implemented the ZamCAT last year, when we collected Year 1 data from children in the communities where our Lead Partners have implemented ECD programming. Our Year 1 analysis found that children in ECD programs supported by our partners perform considerably higher than comparison children from the same communities. Over the last few months, we have been gathering Year 2 data. We are eager to see how children's scores have changed over time, and how their home environment as well as their participation in ECD programming has affected this change.
What’s coming up:
In the months ahead, we will be sending out our next round of grants for the final year of this initiative. All of our partners will begin implementing their proposed plans, and our Lead Partners will provide capacity building support to help each organization improve its programs. We will also be analyzing the Year 2 ZamCAT data.
What impact has early childhood development made in your community? Tell us in the comments section.