ROTARY Club of Gungahlin in partnership with Rotary Club of Dili and FOKUPERS, an NGO in Timor Leste, is developing an Early Childhood Development (ECD) program in TL.
In Timor Leste the early childhood sector is one of the least developed services. It is well documented that many international governments, organisations and groups provide significant assistance to pre-primary, primary and secondary schools.
However, very young children and the importance of early years of learning and development has been mostly overlooked. In 2014 it was reported that as little as 11% of 4 to 6 year old children access pre-schools. And there are no programs, targeted play and stimulating spaces for children from birth up.
The aim of the ECD program is to establish play-n-learn groups in suitable locations across Timor Leste for children 0 to school age. The project will provide opportunities for very young children to participate in activities which will contribute to their good health, stimulate their learning and encourage their development from early years. Through participation and socialising children develop cognitive, social and emotional as well as pre-writing and pre-reading skills.
Mothers/parents/carers can engage in their child’s activities and observe their child develop new skills. They connect, share stories and learn from each other as well as from the program officer.
The model calls for a family centred approach, whereby the benefits will extend to the family and the whole community. Such programs, developed in local community hub can be integrated in the space shared with other child/family services where families already gather. For example, regular information workshops on dental care, nutrition, and immunisation, preventative living skills or similar can be utilised for “community education”.
The multi-sectoral nature of Play and Learn program will open education and employment opportunities for people interested in career in ECD sector and increase skills and expertise for all those involved. Training and skills building has been imbedded in the overall plan.
Another important aspect is that the implementation and management of the program will be in the hands of the local organisation FOKUPERS supported by expertise of ROTARY members. This will ensure cultural appropriateness; it will also make future collaboration with local government and other likeminded organisations more realistic so to achieve long term sustainability.
By Gordana Morphett, RC Gungahlin