42 villages in 6 communities in the Sikasso region in the south of Mali are benefitting from the project.
Promoting early childhood development in rural Mali
In this project, we deliberately refrain from building new preschool facilities, which are costly to operate. Instead, we give priority to promoting early childhood development directly in the home or village. For this purpose, we organise parent education courses and informal neighbourhood playgroups in private homes or outdoors, thus fostering children’s development and social skills through play.
All activities are carried out by volunteers who are specifically trained by us. Around one year into the project, the demand among parents and children for our activities is overwhelming. Having seen changes in their children’s behaviour, parents who were hesitant at first have now realised how important early childhood education activities are.
More than one third of school-age children in Mali do not go to school, and only 10% of 3-6-year-olds have access to preschool. Many children who attend school drop out prematurely.
Research results have shown that a good early childhood education is important for a successful start to school and for educational attainment later on. However, early childhood education does not always need to take place at a nursery school or a preschool. Parents and village communities are the first and most important caregivers for children and are thus crucial to their development in early childhood.
Our project exploits this potential and strengthens parents and community members in their ability to use their own resources to support early childhood development. Central to this approach are our information activities about the importance of a healthy development in early childhood and our sharing of tips that can be easily implemented in daily life.
Sustainability through self-responsibility at community level
The project has been deliberately designed to be cost-efficient, allowing smaller and low-resource villages to launch preschool activities and operate them in the long term. Playgroups run without any substantial fixed costs; playgroup teachers work on a voluntary basis and in certain cases are paid in kind by the communities themselves. The activities take place outdoors under a tree or in private homes. Since the playgroups do not have many materials at their disposal, playgroup teachers are encouraged to make teaching and play material from locally available resources. All of this allows the villages to continue with these activities even after the project ends. Due to the great demand, additional playgroups have already been formed in many villages.
The project is very important for us here in Kakouna. Not only has it allowed us, the parents, to become better at teaching our children to read and do arithmetic at home, but it has also created a space where parents and children can grow closer.