Early Childhood Development
Our major ECD interventions are: Agah Walidain (Informed Parents), Family Involvement in Child Development (FICD), Umeed (hope), Early Learning Model (ELM) and ECD on Wheels.
The major intervention of RF is in the field of Early Childhood Development. The values central to this program are inclusivity, quality education, and the promotion of lifelong learning. RF has integrated Goal 4, quality education, of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in its ECD program. Education plays a crucial role to foster tolerance among people and contribute to more peaceful societies.
Acknowledging the importance of early years of a child in overall development of an individual Rupani Foundation has started Early Childhood Development program in targeted areas. The Foundation recognizes ECD as an effective strategy that can play a vital role in improving society in general and the quality of life of the people in particular. Rupani Foundation particularly aims at providing a comprehensive program of education for parents and primary caregivers of children from conception to eight years of age. All ECD interventions follow the child-centred approach to make children of targeted age group lifelong learners, assist parents and primary caregivers in building parenting skills. The overall goals of ECD intervention is: Improved access to quality ECD services, Enhanced family and community support, Strengthened human resources, networks and institutions, Improved nutritional status of women, adolescents and grand parents.
To promote the cause of ECD for the betterment of the communities living in acute poverty in the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindh and Punjab, RF has worked with many stakeholders through different interventions under its ECD component. These interventions include Agah Walidain (Informed Parents), Family Involvement in Child Development (FICD), Umeed (hope), Early Learning Model (ELM) and ECD on Wheels.
Agah Walidain – Informed Parents (AWIP)
Agah Walidain (Informed Parents) is a home based customized program catering to children from conception to 3 years of age. It is a comprehensive program to promote holistic early childhood education. It fosters inclusion of the newly-wed couples, families, parents and children to ensure optimal outcomes. The principal architects with the power to transform a child’s development and learning are parents and caregivers. It not only focuses on the child’s upbringing, but also on creating harmony and interaction within the family to nurture the child from conception to 3 years of age – the crucial formative years of life. The overall objective of AW-IP is to empower parents for optimum development of their children and to set a pathway for lifelong learning through timely rendering of information and support during the first three years. The AW-IP program helps children to explore their hidden potentials and prepare a child for a balanced life through the involvement of mothers and caregivers both at home as well as at AW-IP centres. These interactions can boost cognitive, physical, social and emotional development. Family Support Motivators (FSMs) work with mothers and caregivers on child development and responsive parenting. Awareness sessions on healthy diet and nutrition, responsive parenting, prenatal and post-natal health care and health and hygiene of both mother and child are part of this holistic development program.
AW-IP program offers yoga exercises to parents, especially mothers, grandparents and caregivers to ensure physical mental wellbeing. Yoga helps to develop harmonious mind and body. Trained yogis conduct daily sessions for mothers and children at AW-IP resource centres. Similarly, special yoga sessions are arranged for pregnant women to encourage exercise and mind peace and comfort during pregnancy. Another essential aspect of this program is home visits as Family Support Motivators visit student families at home to ensure that center’s conducive learning environment is replicated and the learning are practiced at home also to align both environments in order to optimize learning outcomes.
For the holistic development of a child, different components of child learning are set in such a way that every component complements each another. Marriage counseling sessions are arranged in order to imbue the notions of a healthy lifestyle in their daily practice. The program helps in delineating the possible efforts that could ensure the healthy and safe environment that is pertinent to children educational and social development. Modern researches have proved that child learning starts from the conception; parent’s social, emotional, psychological and health condition has a huge impact on the development of a child. Therefore, prenatal education sessions are held regularly under AW, wherein parents are delivered with knowledge about prenatal child and mother care. The aim of the program is to disseminate every detail ranging from hygiene to physical exercises so that conducive environment for parents and child could be created.
RF advocates the rights of children and believes that it is pertinent for the whole society to understand and disseminate the rights of children and their protection. In Pakistan there are pitfalls in the dispensation of child protection mechanisms. Therefore, RF believes that community sensitization is important. Communities are receptive. They are imparted with the knowledge about child protection and care. Through community sensitization, RF promotes the harmony in the community, which can easily trickle down into the family through timely investing knowledge.
RF believes in the core values of transformation in the vulnerable communities living in Pakistan. Through Family Support Motivators (FSM), access to the household could easily be maintained. It is imperative for child development to synchronise the environment in the home and school so that maximum learning outcome could be achieved. FSM pay regular visits to homes and ensure the viable environment for the children. Moreover, grandparent session is regularly conducted to give information about child development as children are mostly attached to their grandparents. These sessions were conducive in raising awareness among grandparent about social, educational, emotional and age-appropriate needs of the children.
In Sindh, 51.25% of the total population resides in rural areas with 75% living in abject poverty. The population dependence is on sustenance farming, which is insufficient to cater to the nutritional and economic needs. People do not have access to basic amenities of life, and education seems an unrealized dream for the majority of the population.
Program Umeed is a key ECD initiative of Rupani Foundation in Sindh’s rural areas for 3 to 8 years age group. It focuses on a hybrid approach (blend of Montessori and High Scope). It works with community based schools to promote Early Childhood Care & Education in rural Sindh. This formal school is an endeavour to create “Hope” for the underprivileged by providing age appropriate facilities and learning material and ensuring engagement of parents in their children’s ECD schooling. It aims at providing age appropriate learning environments, facilities; sustainable resources to community-based schools and encourages an active parental environment in classroom settings. Along with this, the project keeps engaging communities in awareness sessions targeting unhealthy aspects and practices that prevail in a particular community. Currently, the program is being implemented in 5 centres with children enrolled in classes ECD-1 to ECD-4.
RF believes that community involvement is imperative in the enhancement of childhood learning in particular and society in general. Umeed program has an edge in bringing the parental involvement in community-based schools to such a level that they can easily participate at administrative level. Parents have the opportunity to get involved in the restructuring of the school environment so that they can give input in forming cultural appropriate school environment. The government school lack resources and lack of parents involvement in the administration, this program creates a niche for parents to have say in school activities. With the due participation of parents, Umeed programme aims at strengthening the committees that control the helm of affairs in the school, be it administrative or educational. Through strengthening the school management committees, the expectations of the parents can easily be translated into the policy level and put into practice in daily administration. As there is a lack of opportunities and resources available in Sindh province, this program has a core objective of providing age-appropriate curriculum and materials for the holistic development of a child.
Early Learning Model (ELM)
After a successful implementation of Umeed program in Sindh, the same model was replicated in Gilgit with the name Early Learning Model (ELM) Centre. The need to start a similar program arouse when parents of 3+ aged children of AW-IP centre demanded provision of same quality and learning process for a smooth transition into formal schooling for their children. The program is now being run in Gilgit with 4 levels of classes starting from ECD-1 to 4. This model provides a holistic learning environment and education that enables graduates in making smooth transition into mainstream education. Through interactive and innovative learning approaches children are prepared for future endeavors. Contemporary modules and pedagogies are practiced in classroom to enhance learning. Both indoor and outdoor activities stimulate young mind to discover world and create new things.
Family Involvement in Child Development (FICD)
The formative years of a child are pivotal in shaping the contours of personality of a child and determining his/her future trajectory of life. The kind of environment, stimulation and learning he/ she receives is imperative to boost socio-emotional, cognitive, language skills and physical well being. Early Childhood Care and Education do not get the necessary recognition in Pakistan and provinces are lagging behind in literacy. Sindh province has a population of 47.89 million with 31% literacy rate. There are around 6.67 million out of school children in Sindh and 1.87 million belong to the primary school going age – 5-9 years old. In 2017, the Sindh government introduced an Early Childhood Care and Education policy to reform the most neglected developmental domain, but despite the efforts ECD is not accessible to the whole population.
With the aim of fostering and promoting Early Childhood Care and Education in Sindh, specifically increasing the outreach to poor communities with no access or means to learn, Rupani Foundation has established Family Involvement in Child Development center. FICD is a Montessori-based ECD program for children ageing from 3 to 6. It creates an opportunity for parents and other family members to play an active role in their child’s healthy nurturance and prosperous well-being during the child’s formative years. FICD primarily supplements the formal ECD schooling by engaging children and parents in their ECD tasks twice a week. In this model, parents along with their children sit in a classroom setting and carryout activities assigned to them. Currently, RF runs 5 FICD centres in Sindh with 3 levels; Beginner, Intermediate and Advance. This initiative was introduced with the aim to bolster school readiness and smooth transition process from ECD to the mainstream education system. Focused areas of learning in FICD are communication and language, physical development, personal, social and emotional development, creative arts, literacy, mathematical skills, adaptability to culture through inculcating culture relevant skills and behaviours.
Community Based AWIP Model
Rupani Foundation has recently launched five year community based informed parents replication program in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. The Foundation will establish 45 “Informed Parents” centres in remote and far flung regions of the program area by 2021. The aim of this program is to extend its quality ECD services to the communities living in isolation and facing socio-economic vulnerability. So far 28 Community Based Informed Parents Centres have been established in tge remote regions of Gilgit-Baltistan, Sindh and Punjab. This venture is a onetime investment on Rupani Foundation’s behalf in which it provides learning resources, classroom furniture, audio visual equipment, and technical support. Family Support Motivators are also given one month comprehensive training on theoretical dimensions about Early Childhood Development and approaches as well as they are familiarized with classroom proceedings through engagement in day to day activities. With this collaboration, community members have to ensure sustainability of the center through introduction of comprehensive management and administrative system, and they are responsible to explore funding sources to run administrative activities. Whole village community is engaged in this process of learning. Presently, 34 AW-IP replication centres have been established and are functional in provinces of Sindh, Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan. Community Based AW-IP centres primarily target marginalized communities with the ambition to promote and instill lifelong learning in poor families that will resultantly improve their future prospects.
ECD on Wheels
Development and growth of young children in their formative years in terms of cognitive, emotional, social and physical potential is vital to optimize their abilities. Scientific research validates the importance of first 1000 days in optimizing child’s development through combined impact of education, care, health, nutrition, protection and stimulation. While only 35% of age 3 to 5 years old children have access to pre-primary education facilities in Pakistan and prenatal to 3 years of age facilities are absent. Accessibility and affordability are major factors that hinder parents from acquiring best educational services. In this regard, Rupani Foundation has introduced a cost-effective and accessible innovative venture to serve marginalized and downtrodden segments of Pakistan.
Mobile ECD is a pioneer innovative effort of Rupani Foundation that ensures provision of cost-effective Early Childhood Development at the door steps of the marginalized suburbs in cities. This innovative school caters to children from prenatal stage to three years of age. Parents and caregivers also engage in the holistic development of each child. Mobile ECD truck has been equipped with necessary ECD material, books, age relevant toys, audio and visual equipment (LED). To counter changing weather patterns, cooling and heating facility has also been installed. Two well trained Family Support Motivators (FSMs) conduct sessions and engage parents, caregivers and children in stimulating activities.
Responsive parenting sessions for parents, health and hygiene, marriage counseling is offered to newlywed couples and prospective parents, prenatal education is disseminated to pregnant mothers to ensure good health of both mother and child. Besides this, family harmony sessions involve both parents where they learn create a healthy conducive learning environment at home. Mobile ECD also provides space to sensitize community on social issues, child rights, importance of ECD education, and impact of community engagement in educational endeavors.