By: Emily Agnew, `14
In Peru, over one-half of the population lives in extreme poverty. Parents are forced to leave their children unattended for many hours, working long 10-hour days. The Wawa Wasi “Childrenís Homes,” allow working mothers to leave their children under the care of trained health professionals. Children receive basic stimulation and nutrition- both of which they would not receive at home. This program, set up by collaboration between UNICEF and Peruís Ministry of Education is able to serve 150,000 children. Preschools like Wawa Wasi help children develop basic cognitive and social skills, giving them the early stimulation they need to succeed later in life.
More than 200 million children in developing countries do not reach their full cognitive development. This absence in development is due to a lack of nutrition, early stimulation, or resources. Early child development (ECD) programs are fundamental tools in bridging this gap, and giving children the educational stimulation they need. Children develop at a rapid rate in the first few years of their lives, making intervention essential. ECD programs have enumerable benefits, including higher school readiness, increased school performance, decreased dropout rates, grade retention, and socio-emotional stability. Low levels of childhood development are correlated with criminality, poor school performance, increased reliance on the health care system, and lower future earnings.
I became interested in researching this issue after looking at the preschools Save the Children set up in Mozambique, Africa. I wanted to look into other preschool programs, to compare and contrast what factors made each ECD program successful. Therefore, my research project evaluates six different preschools in Africa and South America to determine what factors create effective ECD programs. I found that the most significant factors in ECD programs are attending ECD programs with either personal attention or an emphasis on nutrition. Additionally, my project discusses the policy implications of ECD programs and proves that it is imperative for governments to invest in ECD for economic reason.