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Ethiopia has a really low preschool enrolment rate (just 5.2%) which contributes to significant school drop outs among early primary school students (18% in grade one and two nationally). It’s a huge issue that early childhood interventions can tackle. The region of Amhara (Bahir Dar zuria district) was selected due to its poor access to health and education services, and its high proportion of the population under the age of 14 years (greater than 50%).
The government of Ethiopia has pledged to work towards increasing and enhancing Early Childhood Development back in 2010 yet the provision of this important childhood development step is yet to be developed in all areas of Ethiopia. Children in this pre-school age group experience the most rapid period of growth and change during the human lifespan in terms of their maturing bodies and nervous systems, their increasing mobility, communication skills, intellectual capacities and socio-emotional development, and rapid shifts in their interests and abilities. Young children’s earliest years are the foundation for their future physical and mental health, emotional security, cultural and personal identity, and competencies.
This is a five year project, and is entering its final year of operation with a remaining budget of $180,000 required this financial year. This project cost will supply literacy materials including books, toy making workshops, child protection, and parenting education which includes child health information.
A key characteristic of this project is the involvement of parents and guardians in that they are educated in the importance of early childhood development practices and child health care. The objective is that positive parenting behaviour change will continue for generations and amongst peers, making this a truly sustainable project.
The project is implemented in partnership with two local development partners - Ratson Child, Youth and Women Development Program and Development Expertise Centre – both of whom have practical experience in implementing community based development initiatives.
A low cost approach to early learning programs will mean that communities can take economic leadership of Early Childhood Development centre’s management.
As this is the final year of funding, Plan International is working to ensure that this policy and knowledge is operationalised at the grassroots level, and also addresses social sustainability related to early childhood through promoting peer leadership, examples of positive parenting behaviour change, social networking and wider community sharing of lessons learnt. This sustainable model is what Plan International strives to achieve in all communities we operate in.
The project focuses on improving the wellbeing and learning opportunities for the most marginalised children in the northern highlands, Amhara (Andassa) by supporting parents and guardians to act to improve the development of children 0-8 years. In rural Ethiopia the lack of preschools and long distances to reach these, combined with the low economic status of families in these locations creates a demand for resources such as the Donkey Mobile Library.
A key component of this project is a Donkey Mobile Library, which aims to achieve improved learning opportunities and open the imaginations of hundreds of children. Similar to mobile libraries common in Australia, the Donkey Mobile Library addresses the urgent need for books in rural Ethiopia. The donkey-pulled cart holds a treasure trove of books, has space to store stools for seating, and contains a special compartment for food for the donkey. When the library visits a school, it’s parked under a big tree, and enough stools are placed in the shade for up to 200 children to sit.