Jyry Virtanen via web
Many changes have been observed during the second year of the second phase of the project. Additional twelve ECCD centers were constructed in 2015 and 2016 making a total number of ECCD centers 24. The centers are well equipped with playing and learning materials, indoor and outdoor games that facilitate the learning process. Following this, an additional 495 children (250F/245M) have had the opportunity to enjoy quality ECCD services provided by the centers. Additional facilitators were enrolled, trained and assigned to deliver quality ECCD services in their locality. This will make a total number of qualified ECCD facilitators to 48. Several trainings related to ECCD and positive child rearing practices have been delivered to facilitators, primary school teachers, management committee members, fathers and mothers. As a result child-parent relationship and children’s well-being are highly improved. Children who have participated to the learning programme in ECCD centers have found to be taken better care of their hygiene, being competitive sociable and disciplined and ranked student. It is also observed that the school readiness, attendance and completion rates are increased, and their drop out is decreased.
An emphasis has been given to gender and inclusion related issues. Consequently the gender balance of ECCD children is almost equal (51%F/49%M). Currently due to different trainings provided on disability issues parents have started to bring their children with disabilities to ECCD centers and primary schools. A total of 28 (12F/16M) children with disabilities have enrolled in the ECCD centers in 2016 and there are 120 (65F/55M) students living with different disabilities at primary schools. The people with disabilities are currently freely participating in different contests and ceremonies organized by the centers.
During 2016, 144 parenting groups with their 2880 members (2160F/720M) were doing their best in cascading the knowledge and skills they have got during their regular meetings conducted twice a week in the village and once a month in the center level. Five model fathers have become members of each parenting group of twenty people and they have started mobilizing and sensitizing fathers to carry out their parenting roles. Practical changes towards positive child rearing and early stimulation have been perceived in the communities and related to this water borne diseases have decreased dramatically, fathers and mothers are engaged to tell stories to their children and prepare playing and learning materials from locally available resources. The production of gender-sensitive early stimulation materials at home and village level are the major project activities. Also the major harmful traditional practices, including gender based violence, child labour abuses, harassments in ECCD target schools have decreased in the areas where the project is being implemented.
One vital achievement of ECCD project is the success that has been seen in fathers’ involvement in positive child rearing practices. Parent to child relationships have improved dramatically and especially fathers have started to be actively involved in positive child rearing practices. Absolute male dominance is decreased and friendly approach between fathers, mothers and children has been seen in the project implementing sites. All parents in the parenting groups have started to feed locally available nutritious food to their children and considerable achievement are also observed in relation to children’s health.
ECCD centers especially in Oromia have been visited by different stakeholders initiated by Oromia Education Bureau. As a result of quality ECCD service provided for the last five years and excellent ECCD children demand for ECCD is highly increased. This also indicates that communities’ awareness towards ECCD is increased. Community elders continued telling stories every Friday in story telling rooms built by the community at all ECCD centers. As a result of the communities’ own effort, ECCD centres at Dubo and Yukara kebeles have organized a second shift in the afternoon to serve additional children. The community is motivated to send the children in the second shift as a result of the growing awareness on the importance of the ECCD programme that the project has created among the communities.
Similar to last year huge need for ECCD services arose from the target communities. This proved to be a great challenge for the project as community representatives consistently demanded to expand the activities to accommodate more children. In connection to this, the way to scale up the program needs additional promotion such as lobbying key officials in the government line ministries and influential people in the local community. The issues have been raised in the network to find solutions, such as making the program even more cost effective and scalable by the local communities themselves.
Lack of water sources in ECCD centres was another challenge faced by the programme team. Due to a lack of water, it would not be possible to prepare model gardens and playing fields and most importantly to supply water to drink. The attempted mitigation was to link with other water projects or by providing water hold plastic bottles and water treatment in collaboration with district health office.
Political dispute happened in Oromia and Amhara regions has influenced routine ECCD activities somewhat. However after the declaration of state of emergency the project implementation was going on smoothly.