22nd October 2014One of team Alpha five’s goals in Salawe is to assist in the completion of an early childhood development centre. An early childhood development centre provides children aged 3 to 6 with a safe haven to learn and grow, as well as providing benefits for those caring for young children. There is a lot of research evidence that early childhood development programmes have significant benefits for children, particularly those who are disadvantaged. Children who go to pre-school are more likely to go to primary school, to stay on and complete school, and to have better educational performance. Pre-schools also help children’s social skills, self-confidence and motivation. Because attending an early childhood development centre has so many benefits, pre-schools are one tool to use in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and achieving universal primary school education. This blog explains a little more about why an early childhood development centre is needed in Salawe. Why is an early childhood development centre needed in Salawe? Over the past decade or so, the population of Salawe has grown as people have moved here because of local gold mines. 860 children currently attend the two local primary schools which provide education for children aged 7 to 14. For children aged 6 or under, there is limited provision and most play in the streets or stay at home with their families. Many children of this age in developing countries face a number of hardships, including poverty, malnutrition, poor health, and unstimulating home environments, which detrimentally affect their development. In Salawe, there are a large number of children orphaned through AIDS or living in households affected by HIV/AIDS. A pre-school particularly benefits these children. (Children skipping in Salawe, led by Georgette, team Alpha five) Emmanuel, the Head Master of the primary school told us that the primary school teachers really notice a difference between children who have been to pre-school and those who haven’t. Children who haven’t been to the kindergarten generally cannot read, write or count. The school has to put on special lessons to enable them to catch up. If every child was able to attend a pre-school, these children would all have a much better start in life. In Salawe, there is already a kindergarten. However, this is temporarily being held in someone’s spare house which, although very much welcomed, doesn’t provide the best learning environment for the children. The rooms are cramped and there are no toilets. As it’s only a temporary place, there are no blackboards or pictures on the walls and it will have to be handed back at some point. (Team Alpha five meets the teaching assistants in the current kindergarten) The new early childhood centre will have a large classroom; an office for the teaching assistants; a kitchen which will enable the children to have at least one nutritious, hot meal each day; and toilet blocks for girls and boys, which will encourage better sanitation practices (few rural houses have toilets and the pre-school can also instil the importance of hand-washing). Providing a permanent place for the early childhood centre means that it can be painted and decorated to provide a really inspiring and welcoming place for the children. The children and their teaching assistants (called “caretakers” here) are really looking forward to the new facilities, which will have a better space in which to teach, and some pictures on the walls to aid children’s learning. We visited a previous project - the early childhood development centre in Ndala which was completed in April 2014. It immediately felt like a happy and welcoming place. Children were singing in a group, before going to the kitchen for a bowl of porridge. The teaching assistants in Ndala told us the new centre had made a big difference. Previously, as in Salawe, the kindergarten had borrowed various buildings for temporary periods of time; but now it had its own dedicated space, it felt joyful and secure. They told us that parents valued the pre-school and liked their children to attend. (The previous project's pre-school at Ndala) Team Alpha five’s project is not simply about providing a better infrastructure. Importantly, it is also about motivating natural leaders in the community to act as agents for change for the better with a special focus on increasing access to education, sanitation, hygiene and sustainable environmental use. With their youthful energy and ideas, as well as their capacity for friendship with other young people in the community, team Alpha five hopes to inspire as many members of the community to get engaged, carry on and continue making a difference long after Raleigh has left, ensuring a sustainable, lasting legacy for the community. There are already natural leaders in the community. Michael, the Community Development Officer for Salawe, is one of them – he has a vision for community improvement and the dynamism to inspire others. We were excited to find out that one of the venturers in team Alpha five – Joseph - is from Salawe. It is his desire to give something back to the whole community and he will learn many leadership skills from his expedition. (Joseph and Fadhila, venturers in team Alpha five) Already, the local youth group, women’s group and motorcycle group have been to meet team Alpha five to see how they can get involved. Indeed, it was the readiness of the community to engage with the project which led to Salawe being selected by Save the Children as one of the places in which to build an early childhood development centre.