The best start for children in West Nangat Village – the way to help shape their future

3 March 2016

The average household in West Nangat Village in Pakkoku Township, Magway Region, makes just 30,000 kyats (~US$23) per month. The village, home to 1605 people mostly rely on farming groundnuts, beans and corn as their main source of livelihoods.The young children in this village would generally stay at home with their mothers until they are ready for primary school. As a result, many start school without the social, motor and cognitive skills needed to succeed.IMG_2894

In 2013, Save the Children, with funding from the Myanmar Education Consortium, helped the community to set up their first early childhood care and development (ECCD) centre. U San Oo, village administrator said: “I was very interested in the programme when Save the Children came to us because I thought it would be very good for the future of the children here in the village.”

To help improve the sustainability of the centre, the village committee was also given a pool of seed funding to generate income to run the centre. As part of the village committee, Daw Htay Htay Win, a mother of three living in the village, helps to manage the fund. “There are 100 people who borrow money from our funds and we collect an interest that is lower than that of other moneylenders. We started with seed funds of 3,200,000 kyats (~US$2500),” she said.

“The fee for the children here are set at 1000 kyats (~US$0.80) per month and that helps to pay for the learning materials. The caregivers are paid 50,000 kyats (~US$39) per month. There are 65 children, three caregivers and a helper in this centre. Salaries are paid out of the village fund, when we make money from the interest collected from the loans.”

In Myanmar, only about 22.9% of children have access to early childhood care and development centres. As a result, many do not have holistic development (physical, social and cognitive) that helps prepare a child well for formal education. Save the Children’s ECCD interventions focus on the establishment of ECCD centres for care and early learning opportunities for 3-5 year-olds, supported by wider awareness-raising and parenting education in the target communities. The project activities are based on Save the Children’s many years of experience in ECCD programming, and strong evidence that shows that children learn and develop from birth, and early ECCD interventions with and by parents at home and the wider community.

Over a period of two years, the village administrator says the children are a lot more confident and sociable. He says the centre has helped them to transition better to primary school, as they adjust to the routine much quicker than children who have not attended the ECCD centre. Children who have not attended this centre would usually require their mothers to accompany them to school for at least a month or two before settling in. He said: “Now, the parents here go to work happily because they know that their young children are well taken care of at this centre. The children are more confident about speaking, and they are more sociable with other children. They speak up and do things in public without feeling shy, and they are more active than the children who have not benefited from this project.”

With her own children, Daw Htay Htay Win says her youngest child, the only one who benefitted from the centre, is more disciplined and independent. He has good table manners and is tidier than his elder siblings. Her two elder children required her to stay at school with them for the first two months of school before they could sit through classes by themselves. She said: “My youngest child who attended tIMG_2923his centre is more disciplined and independent. He can eat and drink by himself and has good table manners. He is also tidier; he would pack up after playing with toys, and bring his plate to me after he finishes his food.”“The children now speak politely to one another, and they speak confidently in front of the class and at home with their family,” said Daw Win Htar, a caregiver at the centre. “They wash their hands regularly, before and after meals, and after using the latrine. Their finger muscles are much stronger from using the scissors, drawing and painting. I am very happy to see the children develop well.”

The village of West Nangat may be poor for now, but with this centre, the next generation has been given the best start available for them to shape their future.