Pre-primary Education - the Importance of Early Learning When EdUKaid identifies which school to help we narrow it down to those who need it most. In the case of all 16 partner schools, the pre-primary class was virtually non-existent. Just a small group of children sat beneath a tree or in an unused scruffy classroom with no teacher and no hope. Much like the photo to the right, which shows the children of Likonde pre-primary before EdUkaid stepped in. Pre-primary education is not held in high regard in Tanzania, even though evidence clearly shows its importance. We are setting out to change this by providing a classroom, qualified teacher and essential resources. Firstly, lets have a look at the facts. The Facts Even though pre-primary education is compulsory in Tanzania, it is not prioritised or properly resourced. Growing evidence shows that this early childhood education helps children grasp lessons better when they enter primary. In fact, by the time a child reaches the age of 5 90% of their brain is already developed. Another reason these early years of education are so vital. Nationwide, Tanzania has an enrollment rate for pre-primary children of 34% (source: The Citizen). In contrast, the pre-primary enrollment rate in developed countries sits at 82% (Source:Their World). The early years of life are crucial to establishing a foundation for cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. What happens during this time plays a vital role in shaping young people. For children in the Mikindani area, the odds are stacked against them - it is well known that pre-primary education in rural areas is scarce compared with urban areas. The Challenges for Pre-primary Education A shortage of classrooms A shortage of qualified teachers A lack of teaching and learning materials A long distance between children’s homes and the schools An unwillingness/readiness for parents to enroll children Despite these well-known challenges, pre-primary education is still massively underfunded in the Tanzania. The Difference Small Changes Make We have witnessed first-hand what can happen when education is provided for these young students. EdUKaid's first pre-primary class, at Imekuwa School, opened in 2009 - since then we have opened a further 14 pre-primary classes and the results have been astounding. Our focus on engaging parents and wider communities in the creation of these classrooms has been key to helping them understand the importance of pre-primary education and their responsibility to ensure that their children attend school regularly. In a little village called Lwelu, not far from EdUKaid's office in Mikindani, we transformed the village school. The first year, the 20 children who previously sat outside were welcomed into a brand-new classroom with a teacher and assistant. As word spread that a charity had created a real opportunity for the village's youngest learners, the class size swelled. A few years after opening, over 100 pre-primary children turn up to school every week day. The class sizes are often small before we step in. A lack of confidence from the local community means that many children between 4-6 years old who should be in education, are kept at home. Let’s face it, why would you take excited young children the walk to school just sit in dust for a few hours with no interaction from a teacher. As the classes have grown, we have looked for more ways to help teachers cope. The pupil to teacher ratio in a public pre-primary school is 169:1 (source: UNICEF). We already employ a teaching assistant at all our primary schools to assist, in some classes they have two! Other techniques involve building an outdoor shelter so classes can be split and taught separately. We now train parents to volunteer in the larger classes - this provides support for the teacher and gives the parents an opportunity to better understand the education their children are receiving. EdUKaid pre-primary classes use the Montessori approach to teach the children. With large class sizes and a lack of access to educational resources the concept of learning through play lends itself really well to this environment. All our pre-primary teachers are qualified Montessori teachers having trained full time for 2 years at the local Montessori College. Our pre-primary classes have been identified as a model of good practice in early years' education and have been featured in a recent USAID report on improving early grade learning outcomes. Some of our classes were visited by the USAID Director Andrew Kraus on a recent visit to Mtwara. EDUKaid classes featured in the USAID Report It seems crazy for us that the government, although making it compulsory, puts little resources into pre-primary education. We are confident that this will changeover time as the Government recognises the value of early years education, but for now, keep a close eye on our profiles to see the difference we can achieve. If you would like to support this work then you can donate here. Have a read of the Bright and Early report from Their World to see how financing pre-primary education gives a child a fair start in life.