Why this project?
Governments in developing countries generally pay little attention to pre-school education. The focus is rather on primary school, as countries want to reduce the illiteracy rates. Compared to the budget that development organizations make available for literacy, only 2% goes to education for children between 3 and 5 years old.
Children who grow up in poor families or in remote areas often have less chance to receive good quality education. This situation maintains and increases social and economic inequalities. Early childhood education can break this circle. Research has shown that receiving education at the age of 3 to 6 has a favourably impact on children’s learning abilities, an even higher effect in comparison to other education initiatives. Children who regularly attend pre-school education are considerably more likely to successfully complete primary and secondary education. The higher the participation in early childhood education, the more children enrol for primary school, and finish it in due time.
Before a child turns six, the basis for the development of cognitive, social and emotional capacities is formed. Preschool education plays an important role in this development. By learning with each other in a playful manner, children develop their independency and concentration span, they learn to function in a group, and develop their language capacity. Children are introduced to numbers and letters, which enables children to learn to read, write, and count. Kindergarten education can make the difference, especially for children with a disadvantage.
Additionally, education and childcare for pre-school children have positive consequences for the entire family. Older children do not have to take care of their younger brothers or sisters, and mothers have their hands free for income-generating work. Going to school becomes a permanent part of the family routine.
The SAKO pre-school project
The pre-school project of the SAKO Foundation is carried out by two partner organizations. The pre-school program of partner organization Aloshikha consists of 41 kindergartens. This program provides 1230 children aged 3 to 6 years with pre-school education each year. The pre-school project of partner organization BVDO runs 25 schools, consisting of 1 or 2 classrooms, and annually provides 750 children with pre-school education. Children are taught basic skills and are prepared for primary school. The schools of Aloshikha and BVDO are all located in remote areas in the countryside, in villages where before were no educational opportunities for children. Annual recurring flooding makes these areas difficult to access. Villages are surrounded by water for an average of four months per year, and can only be reached by boat. That is why it is so important that education in the villages is available for the smallest children.
BVDO and Aloshikha both offer a total package: all pupils get their own uniform and each school is equipped with sufficient learning materials. Where possible, schools have their own toilet and water pump. Children get to recognize numbers and letters with ease. There is a lot of attention for play, creativity, singing and dancing. In addition, the children get a good meal four times a week. Attention is paid to health and hygiene, and the children visit a school doctor twice a year. The most important holidays are celebrated jointly, and once a year a sports and games day is organized.
Involvement of the community
Stichting SAKO and its partner organizations consider it very important that parents are involved. A successful project needs the support and participation of the community. A small contribution of 5 to 10 Taka per month (6 -12 euro cents) is requested to parents, to emphasize the value of involvement and reciprocity. The establishment of a school only takes place when the village itself contributes. If possible, the community itself will make the location and/or grounds of the school available. That means that it always starts very small, for example because someone makes their home or veranda available in the morning for the class. In addition, a school committee is formed, consisting of the teacher, parents and village elders, and an employee of the partner organization. When this structure functions well and sufficient cooperation and responsibility is taken, SAKO looks for funds to create a more secure shelter for the school.
The land on which a school is built is made available by someone from the village, who from that moment also has a seat on the school committee. Together, this committee carries the responsibility for the everyday activities of the school. It makes sure that children aged 3 years are enrolled in the school, and in case of long term absences, the committee ensures that a home visit is made to prevent drop-outs. Parents' evenings and general information evenings are organized. Both BVDO and Aloshikha maintain good contact with the local government, and the primary schools in their working area. They strive for a good connection to ensure a smooth transition from pre-primary education to public primary school.
Partner organizations Aloshikha and BVDO pay a lot of attention to the quality of education. Essential therefore are the teaching skills of the teachers. Every month, a teachers meeting is organized to discuss teaching methods and case studies. In addition, each pre-school is visited twice a month by a qualified teacher who supports the teachers in their own classroom setting. In recent years, several Dutch teachers have organized a number of workshops on handicrafts, drawing, and physical education. One of the outcomes of these voluntary initiatives from the Netherlands is the annual sports day for all pre-school children.