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The Promise of Preschool

During our May/June 2013 trip some of you may remember Expert Teacher Advisors Jocelyn and Melissa blogging about their first interaction with primary school teacher Baroat (who eventually became the translator for the LR teacher training) asking why we were focusing energy on preschool when so many of the primary schools needed assistance and resources.

In Mozambique, a recent World Bank-funded evaluation report of a low-cost preschool pilot program run by Save the Children showed the importance of early education.  As if directly addressing Baroat’s questions, the report states: “Put simply, a dollar invested in a quality early childhood development program will yield greater results for a vulnerable child than the same dollar invested later on, for example in primary education.  This does not signify by any mean that investments in education, health, and other social services after age 5 are unnecessary or useless.  Rather, it signifies that the two types of investments (i.e., during early childhood and after) are complementary, and that investments early in life give children the strong foundation that will make further investments more efficient.”

As this is one of the few reports on preschool programs a rural Africa setting, evidence gathered by this report is translatable to Little Ripples and further corroborates the need for our program.  Many of the costs and challenges of implementing in Chad are very different from rural Moazmbique, and Save the Children is operating on a much larger scale, but there are also many similarities between our programs.  Mozambique and Chad both face challenges of extreme poverty, ranking 185 and 184 out of 187 countries on the 2012 Human Development Index  – third and fourth from the bottom (with Little Ripples taking place in the Darfuri refugee camps with far fewer resources than the rest of Chad, the HDI measurement numbers for our exact population would probably in actuality rank much lower).   The strongest link between the Save the Children preschool program and our own Little Ripples program is the community-driven and supported strategies to create and sustain a culturally relevant curriculum.

Through years of visiting the camps and communication with the Darfuri refugee population, the i-ACT team has experienced firsthand the deleterious effects of the lack of preschool education not only on the student, but their older siblings, family, and community.  This evaluation report shows that children who attended the preschool were 24% more likely to start primary school at the right age and showed significant improvements along a cognitive and problem-solving abilities, fine motor skills, and socio-emotional and behavioral outcomes.  Furthermore, when children are cared for out of the home and enrolled in a preschool program, there are added benefits by freeing up time and resources for older children and adults in the household to engage in other productive activities, whether that is school or work.  Older siblings were 6% more likely to attend school themselves as a result and caregivers of preschoolers were 26% more likely to have worked in the 30 days prior to the interview.

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Jennifer became passionate about international development and humanitarian work when studying abroad in Cape Town, South Africa, and leading youth performing arts workshops in one of the surrounding townships. After graduating from UCLA with a Masters in Public Health in Community Health Sciences, she taught adolescent reproductive health to high school students in South and East Los Angeles. She has also worked as a Research Associate at the UCLA Center for Health Services and Society, where she was able to foster an understanding of the community engagement and community resilience approaches, and hopes to incorporate these strategies in her work with Little Ripples. jennifer@iactivism.org


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