The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education (MBSSE), with financial and technical support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), has completed the construction of 30 new Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in three districts of Sierra Leone.
The ECD centres are furnished with tables and chairs for children and teachers, desegregated toilets, and outdoor playgrounds.
A ceremony to officially unveil the classrooms took place at Sawulia Community in Bombali, signifying the opening of doors to an estimated 2,100 children from Bombali, Pujehun, and Kambia, who will now attend classes in these fully- furnished child friendly ECD centers.
“His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has laid a new focus on ECD through the Free Quality School Education program. Our Ministry has developed, validated and disseminated a new National Policy on Integrated Early Childhood Development and embarked on training care providers and teachers all towards strengthening the human capital of Sierra Leone. We will continue to build safe spaces for our children to play, learn and thrive,” explained Honorable Minister David Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education.
The new construction of the ECD Centres comes as a growing body of research has demonstrated the s at a time when global evidence highlights the importance of importance of expanding Early Childhood Development (ECD) opportunities as an avenue to support optimum child growth and development of a child.
In Sierra Leone, poverty, stunting from poor nutrition, social norms, and inadequate financial resources are highlighted in the National Policy on Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD), as factors which limit children’s access to ECD early child development opportunities.
The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, (2017), also highlights that only 12 per cent of children aged 3-5 years-old are attending an organised early childhood education programme in Sierra Leone and just 2 per cent of children under five years of age have access to three or more reading books.
“Early childhood education is one of the best investments a country can make to prepare children for learning and give them a chance to thrive later in life,” said Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education.
The ECD centers which were built as part of the GPE-funded programme “Getting it right, building strong foundations for learning”, started in October 2020. The centres will make a significant contribution to children’s learning, play and socio-emotional development.
Each of the 30 centres includes, two spacious classrooms that have been constructed and that are fully furnished with desks and chairs for between 30 – 35 children to sit comfortably in each room. In addition, a teacher’s desk and chair, as well as storage facilities for playing and learning materials have also been provided.
Each centre also has accompanying separate gender disaggregated toilets for boys and girls and a solar- powered borehole to promote good proper sanitation and hygiene practices such as handwashing.
To stimulate children’s social and emotional development, teaching and learning materials including picture books have been supplied to the centres, along with an outdoor playground.
Educators from the centres have participated in training on play-based early stimulation and learning approaches, development and use of low-cost teaching and learning materials to promote school readiness.
“UNICEF remains dedicated to support the strengthening of early childhood development so that every child has the opportunity to develop and grow regardless of their social or economic background,” said UNICEF Acting Representative, Ms. Liv Elin Indreiten. “We believe that these centres will bring a lot of hope and aspirations to children across different communities.”
Going forward, 35 more early childhood development (ECD) centres will be constructed in Bombali, Karene, Moyamba Kambia and Kenema with funding from the GPE, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and UNICEF.
The MBSSE, GPE and UNICEF will continue to support the capacity development of early childhood the ECD educators to ensure help them deliver a quality, play-based curriculum to the children enrolled at the centres.