By Ac. Laliteshananda Avt.
At present in Myanmar there are eight Child Centers (pre-schools) operated by AMURT-AMURTEL. The first four child centers started in August 2008 and the other four January/March 2010.
The projects started as Child Friendly Spaces (CFSs) to provide relief and protection to children after the cyclone Nargis which devastated the Myanmar Delta region in May 2008, leaving 140,000 people dead and 6 million affected.
The CFSs were intended to run only during the 6 months of the emergency period. After evaluating the positive impact on the communities it was decided to keep operating them as permanent projects and upgrade the program from CFS to ECCDC (Early Childhood Care and Development Centers).
There are 400 children attending the activities at the Child Centers. The Child centers employ 42 local staff. This includes two coordinators who supervise the activities and look after the needs of the centers; two assistants for the coordinators; 36 local teachers and 2 boat pilots.
The activities at the Child Centers are focused on child development through games, art, music, dance
and storytelling. There’s an introduction to reading and writing to prepare the children for the transition from pre-school to primary school. The children age groups are from 3 to 5 years.
The teachers receive regular training by the coordinators and also take courses on early childhood organized by the government and by other NGO’s. The teachers have already been introduced to Neohumanist concepts.
The Child Centers comply with the minimum ECCDC standards established by the Myanmar government and UNICEF. The standards are reviewed periodically.
Before the cyclone, pre-school education was almost unknown in this area. Apart from providing education the Child Centers provide a livelihood for the teachers who live in the same communities where the projects operate.
Being a social service program, attendance at the Child Centers is free of charge. The centers also function as community centers, where the villagers can have meetings and courses.