Twenty years ago, quality education, let alone Early Childhood Development (ECD), was an abstract concept for our community because of our area’s limited access to schooling. However, over the years, we have steadily built our education programme, which includes five ECD centres across four villages. Today, we celebrate the graduation of our 15th Grade R class, adding to the over 1,000 children who have benefited from our schools.
In 2009, when we began discussing the importance of early childhood education at community meetings, ECD was perceived as a novel idea. Parents and elders didn’t have an image of a young child at school. They described overlooking young children before, not knowing the long-term value of quality ECD. We worked with the community leadership and external experts to build the structures and establish a high-quality, model ECD centre, Jujurha ECD.
This Jujurha ECD became something tangible that parents could see and learn from. Just two years after its inception, community members from three nearby villages, inspired by our success, requested similar facilities for their children. With our community, we launched four additional ECD centres.
We encourage parents and families to volunteer at the schools. Parent Committees at each school receive training and support to apply for government subsidies and manage school finances. This involves handling teacher and cook salaries, educational materials, and groceries. This is particularly notable given that most committee members cannot read or write, yet they work effectively, often with the help of at least one literate member and the support of ECD Centre teachers.
While the subsidy doesn’t cover the entire cost necessary for high-quality early learning, we make sure that all children have access to ECD, irrespective of their financial background. To achieve this, we cover the additional expenses, allowing families to enrol their children in school without fees. In lieu of school fees, families contribute by volunteering at the schools. This includes donating land for the schools, making mud bricks and thatching the roofs, providing labor for building structures, painting centres and playgrounds, and helping cook breakfast and lunch for learners.
Our journey towards sustainable ECD centres in our community continues, marking a significant shift from the past two decades and paving the way for a brighter educational future.