By Gulnaz Jabeen Khan
Pakistan, MULTAN, 26 May 2011 – Devastating floods hit Punjab province in Pakistan and left over 2,000 schools either fully or partially damaged. Thousands of students and hundreds of teachers were displaced.
Many houses were either washed away or heavily damaged by flood water and schools were not able to accommodate their children. Continuation of education for previously enrolled students was at risk, and hence no opportunity for new entrants. Through the “Welcome to School Initiative”, UNICEF established 626 temporary learning centres (TLCs) at the site of fully damaged schools for already enrolled students. These TLCs also provided a unique learning opportunity for new entrants. 150 early childhood education (ECE) classes were introduced in selected TLCs complemented by staffing such as a dedicated ECE caregiver and attendant for each class. Early childhood development (ECD) kits were provided to these classes, and intensive training was provided to ECE caregivers on use of the kits.
“The ECD kit is a very fine learning tool which encompasses all the concepts advocated in the National Curriculum for Early Childhood Education. They should be provided to all the schools irrespective of the fact that they are flood affected or not,” says Malik Irshar Ahmad Shad, District Education Officer, Rajanpur.
The ECD kits proved to be a great motivational factor for new entrants. “In the ECE class, multi-coloured tools of learning (toys) attract the children’s attention the most. They learn basic principles of socialising, sharing and patience when they play/learn in the form of groups. Their learning is quick through the use of the ECD Kit,” says Asiya Bibi, ECE Care Giver at Government Primary School Qadirabad, District Rajanpur.
Field observations reveal that the introduction of ECE classes has been a very successful intervention especially in terms of female enrolment, as the majority of new entrants have been girls.
“There was no school for girls in the near vicinity. With the introduction of ECE class girls have especially benefitted. There are 65 girls and 20 boys in my class, who had never gone to school before,” says Saira Gul, ECE Care Giver, at Government Elementary School Asifabad, District Rajan Pur.
Once in school, ECE classes have helped learning and stimulating creativity. Project coordinator of the Hayat Foundation, Shahzad Mughal, observes, “Ideas the children generate on their own, after manipulating the kit, are quite amazing.”
Learning can also be fun and reaches beyond the classroom according to Khalida Habib, an ECE student at GPS Qadirabad, Rajanpur, “I love to come to school and play with the toys given to us from the ECD kit. I have learnt the names of colours, shapes and learnt to put things in the form of a chain. At home I make the same shapes using mud, and my mother feels happy. We made same shapes with mud in the school and the teacher gave us paints. We coloured them in the same way as in the kit. We enjoy it.”