Holistic development for young children through early childhood care and development

9 April 2015

Nan Moe Phyo Phyo, 3, lives with her 63-year-old of grandmother while her parents are migrant worker who works in restaurants in Bangkok. They return home once a year to visit their three children.

“I have five grandkids living with my husband and I,” said Daw Mung Nau, 63. “Their parents both work in restaurants in Bangkok. My daughter came home to the village to give birth to the babies and stays here for six months before going back to Thailand. The children are breastfed until my daughter leaves for Thailand, and then we give them formula milk.”

Nam Moe’s parents still financially support the family by sending 200,000 Kyats (~US$200) per month home. However the money is insufficient for them to fulfill the needs of the children and themselves, so they have to ask for an extra allowance from their other children, who supplement their income and help support the family.

In Myanmar, only about 22.9% of children have access to early childhood care and development centers (ECCD). As a result, many do not have holistic development (physical, social and cognitive) that helps prepare a child well for formal education. ECCD centers support the learning of languages, development of social skills, good hygiene behavior and train parents and grandparents to understand which foods are nutritious for their children. Save the Children’s ECCD interventions focus on the establishment of ECCD centers for care and early learning opportunities for 3-5 year-olds, supported by wider awareness-raising and parenting education in the targeted communities.

Community and parents’ investment in the program is promoted from the start through a range of consultations, awareness-raising and with in-kind (labor and land) and matching fund contributions to center construction and management. The formation and participation of township ECCD networks are established to provide community led support for ongoing activities. Save the Children is currently implementing ECCD projects in 5 township across the country and has worked in 42 townships since 1997. Between January 2013 and June 2014, Save the Children reached over 18,000 children through MEC funded ECCD projects.

Nam Moe Phyo Phyo, 3, at an early childhood development centre in Pawk Htaw village, Kayin State, Myanmar, set up by Save the Children.
Nam Moe Phyo Phyo, 3, at an early childhood development centre in Pawk Htaw village, Kayin State, Myanmar, set up by Save the Children.

Nan Moe is the first of the children to attend an ECCD center, which was set up about a year ago. Her grandmother says it is extremely challenging for her to care for so many young children during the day and the center provides time for her to rest while the children are at school and center. “She knows better than the elder brothers and sisters colors, vocabulary, animals and fruits. Her elder siblings did not know how to read or write before attending primary school, so now it is harder for them to adapt,” she said. Through the programme she has also learnt to feed the children well. “The children eat three meals every day. In the morning they have fried rice for breakfast, and then they have rice and curry for lunch and dinner.”

Daw San Dar Moe, Nam Moe’s teacher, said many of the children struggle socially when they first enroll in the school. “Sometimes, the children come to our school and they don’t want to play and talk to other children,” she said. “Many of these children have family problems, for instance their parents moved away to Thailand to work. Through many of our play activities and song and dance lessons, the children gradually open up and talk to us. With our encouragement, they like joining in the activities. These play activities are crucial for child development.”

These activities go a long way to helping Daw Mung Nau fulfil her hopes for her grandchildren. “I want them to grow up happy and study well,” she said.