Providing Quality Early Childhood Development in Pakistan Through Releasing Confidence and Creativity Program

BY : Mansoora Tufail


National Coordinator Anzee Altaf, Monitoring Evaluation and Research Officer , Aga Khan Education Service Karachi

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In developing countries like Pakistan, many children younger than age 5 are exposed to multiple risks, including poverty, malnutrition, and poor health and unstimulating home environments, which detrimentally affect their cognitive, motor and socio-emotional development. The negative impact of limited access to education and its poor quality is disproportionately borne by poor and marginalized children. Families surviving in poverty tend to focus on keeping children fed; the development of physical skills and social responsibility. Other developmental domains such as cognitive, psycho-social, emotional and physical skills are mostly neglected and abused.
Concurrently, research has proved that first few years of life are particularly important as vital development occurs in all domains. Children who have not been exposed to the Early Childhood Development [ECD] programme mostly lack in their social, emotional and cognitive development. It has demonstrated that at least 80% of the brain’s capacity is developed before the age of three. Learning occurs faster in the early years than at any other time and patterns that are formed have far-reaching implications. Disadvantaged children who do not reach their developmental potential are less likely to be productive adults. It is also pertinent to note that the lack of female education intimidates the highest economic and social returns. Increasing female labour participation through attainment of education and particularly pre-school education accelerates their social and emotional development by enabling the women to better their role as mothers, workers, and citizens which are regarded as a permanent solution to a number of economic and social problems that improve the quality of life. Releasing Confidence and Creativity Programme [RCCP] works for Pakistan in which young children’s rights are honoured and met. RCCP works to influence the environments affecting the child, family, community, school and policy, so that they are supportive of young children’s overall development. RCC aims to ensure that children are ready for school and schools are ready for children. There is a particular emphasis on ensuring that programme reaches disadvantaged children – whether disadvantaged through poverty, gender, remoteness, disability, etc. Critical to the achievement of this vision is increased understanding of the importance of the early years for both the individual’s ability to reach their unique potential and for national development. This increased awareness and commitment to work together for young children is vital – amongst parents, community leaders, teachers, health workers, civil society, all levels of government and international donors. Children do not learn and develop in a vacuum. Their experiences are determined by a whole range of different influences including the family system, parents’ social work patterns, friends and community, children care and education experiences and wider culture and environment within which the child and family lives. In order to shape healthy socio-emotional development, supports from these interactive
agents are crucial for infants and children. Clear research findings show that effective development occurs through educational programmes for parents and caregivers. The family seems to be the most effective and economical system for fostering and sustaining the child’s development. Without family involvement, intervention is likely to be unsuccessful, and what few effects achieved is likely to disappear once the intervention is discontinued. In order to sustain the programmatic intervention in the communities and enhance parent child relationship, educate mothers’ towards effective caring and rearing practices, inculcate knowledge of health, hygiene and nutritious practices and make adults responsive towards healthy and clean environment, a collaborative RCC-ECD 0-3 pilot programme
initiated. Under this project Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan works with five RCC selected communities in synergy with partners and provide space for programme interventions in the school premises. The number of families in each community approximately ranges from 150 to 200. AKES, P inducted 15 ECD Workers (ECDW), each supporting every 50 families of their own community. RCCP 0-3 pilot programme aims that each programme child should receive good parenting, early stimulation, nurturing care, primary health care, essential micro nutrients in a balanced and nutritious diet, and a safe and clean environment in order to ensure child’s holistic development.