We are currently working with partners in six countries to develop early childhood programmes that can contribute to sustainable development and peacebuilding
Home-based nurseries aim to provide developmental opportunities for children and improve the employment prospects for women who otherwise would not be able to gain employment. The home-based nurseries will extend the high quality large scale educational services to children aged from birth to four years allowing Egyptian women to access the labour market and children to acquire cognitive and socio emotional skills. The nurseries will be implemented in six locations: Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, Gharbiya, Red Sea and Aswan and will follow the curriculum of the Ministry of Education applied to all licensed nurseries in Egypt. In addition to childcare and education, the nurseries will run parent interventions aimed at mothers to provide parenting support and education and they will establish a community advisory group to support the daily functioning of the nursery and provide quality assurance. In 2018, a pilot evaluation of 30 nurseries will test the feasibility of the Home-based nurseries at contributing to child developmental outcomes, parenting skills and social cohesion outcomes at the community level in Egypt. A larger effectiveness trial is planned for 2019.
In Egypt, regular nurseries provide integrated child care and education for children aged 0 to 6 years old however, there is a low uptake in the number of children who attend nurseries. One of the reasons may be due to a lack of community awareness about the importance of preschool education. There has also been a decrease in the number of regular nurseries of all types (NGOs, private etc.) due to difficulties in obtaining the necessary licenses for regular nurseries. As a consequence of the lack of nurseries, many women are unable to work. New Home-Based Nurseries will be established in Egypt to increase the preschool provision in locations where there is no possibility of opening regular nurseries for the lack of available space. Home-based Nurseries aim to specifically improve the developmental skills of children to enhance their readiness for school. These will be the main outcomes of the evaluation however, secondary outcomes assessing how the programme contributes to improved outcomes for parents and for social cohesion will also be measured.
Home-based nurseries provide parental support sessions enhancing parent’s knowledge of child development and raising the awareness of the importance of the father in a child’s life. This is likely to impact the child-caregiver relationship in the home. In addition, the employment for women provided by the home nurseries provides essential career opportunities for women who may not otherwise be able to work due to difficulties obtaining childcare in Egypt. The nurseries also have associated advisory groups constituted of different members of the community. The community advisory groups have a role in supporting the establishment and day to day running of the nurseries and also in raising awareness about the importance of early childhood development in the community.
The home based-nurseries will provide a forum for greater interactions between children in the community and also for greater engagement between caregivers in the community, not only when parents take their child and collect them from the nursery but also through the parental support sessions and the community advisory group. Overall, the Home-based Nurseries will provide a mechanism for improved child, caregiver and community social cohesion.
The media-based ECD programme is implemented in preschools and uses adapted animations based on “The Magic Journey” cartoons and an ECD curriculum to teach children about gender equality and respect for diversity. In addition to the media animations, the preschool programme provides additional curriculum resources for children aged between three to seven years to be used by teachers who have been trained on the importance of respect for diversity and gender equality. Teachers are also trained to facilitate a series of six sessions with parents and community members to reflect on the importance of ECD and respect for diversity. A pilot of the programme in Kyrgyzstan will take place between September 2018 and May 2019 using a matched control pre-post-test design with 30 preschools. A larger randomised controlled trial is planned to begin in September 2019.
The media-based ECD programme is based on a similar intervention called “the Media Initiative for Children” previously implemented and evaluated in Northern Ireland. It is designed for children of 4 age groups, from 3-7 years old and includes 6 common topics. Every topic has an aim to be reached in each age group. The work in each topic lasts for 5 weeks providing time for teachers to engage with each child and each family. Monitoring and evaluation of children’s understanding on each block/topic is fulfilled twice during the year, first after completion of one five-week block and finally at the completion of the programme.
The core elements of the programme are an early Childhood Education (ECE) teacher training on the relationship between early childhood development and peacebuilding, age-appropriate learning materials for children, child friendly media materials/TV animation programme called “the Magic Journey” and parental support programs and community dialogue, which aims to empower children, their parents and ECE teachers to participate fully in all aspects of life and contribute to the creation of an inclusive, tolerant and peaceful society. It is expected that the above-mentioned interventions will reduce the number of children and parents feeling socially excluded while increasing the number of children and parents that see diversity, interaction and tolerance as sources of richness and community development.
A pilot evaluation of the programme will take place between September 2018 to May 2019. This formative evaluation will be based on a cluster randomised controlled trial involving the delivery of the programme to 15 preschool settings, with a further 15 settings acting as a control group across the districts of Batken, Osh, Jalal-Abad, Issyk-Kul. Pre-test quantitative data collection from 80 ECE teachers in approximately 30 settings will take place in August 2018 prior to training in the programme. There will be further collection of quantitative outcomes data from children and their parents/caregivers in September 2018. The intervention will run in pre-schools between September 2018 and May 2019 and post-test data collection for ECE teachers, parents and children will take place in May 2019. The evaluation will also include some qualitative data collection through observations and focus group interviews with a selection of parents/carers and ECE teachers regarding their views on the programme. A one-year follow-up of this sample will happen in May 2020 and a larger randomised controlled trial of the programme will be conducted between September 2019 and May 2020.
The Segou region in Mali has one of the highest newborn mortality rates in the world, with one in 20 newborn infants dying within their first month of life. The vast majority of these deaths are preventable. The Mama Yeleen programme which was developed by UNICEF Mali’s Communication 4 Development team is aiming to provide children in Mali with the best start in life. Mama Yeleen is a community-based programme in which women from the community volunteer to be trained as ‘role model mothers’ to provide advice and support to new and expectant mothers in relation to prenatal care and the promotion of early childhood development. We are leading the evaluation of the second phase of the Mama Yeleen programme in partnership with colleagues from the University of Bamako, Mali. The evaluation will include a small pilot in late 2018 and a larger randomised control trial in 2019.
The Mama Yeleen programme consists of 11 modules centred around 13 key messages. It focuses on educating expectant mothers and new parents on the importance of attending prenatal appointments, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, good hygiene and immunizations and other ways of promoting child health. Each Mama Yeleen identifies ten women in her community that she knows; primarily targeting women who are pregnant and who have just given birth. The programme is delivered to mothers by the Mama Yeleen through monthly home visits and twice monthly group-based sessions. During these bi-monthly meetings, women have the opportunity to bond and socialize with other women in their community.
After a successful pilot in 2016/17, the next phase of the programme will begin in late 2018. In addition to promoting early childhood care and development, this next phase also aims to promote opportunities for networking between women from different ethnic backgrounds who are taking part in the programme. It is hoped that through the establishment of these exchange platforms between different communities, Mama Yeleen can help to promote positive contact between women from different ethnic backgrounds with the aim of improving social cohesion in the target regions. Therefore, in addition to improving outcomes for children and their parents, the Mama Yeleen programme also aims to improve social cohesion outcomes, which are important pre-cursors to peacebuilding.
The evaluation of the Mama Yeleen programme will consist of two strands, a small feasibility pilot in late 2018 and a larger summative evaluation in 2019. The target population is young women and mothers aged (approx.) 15-30 years old from sedentary and nomadic ethnic groups from crisis-affected, rural communities in 4 regions of Mali. The programme aims to engage pregnant women and new mothers and as a result may include children from birth up to 8 years old. The summative evaluation will use a cluster randomised control trial design and will include the collection of quantitative outcome data from parents, their children, and Mama Yeleen. The evaluation will also include some qualitative data collection through observations and focus group interviews with a selection of parents/carers and Mama Yeleen regarding their views on the programme.
While the majority of the short term outcomes for the Mama Yeleen programme will be developmental or health-related, it is proposed that these can contribute to social cohesion in the longer term by helping to build trust within communities as women come together around a common goal thus promoting positive intergroup contact, community engagement and trust between the different communities.
The development of the early childhood development programme in Tajikistan is being undertaken by UNICEF and is supported by funding from the UK Government’s Conflict Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) as part of a cross-border project with neighbouring Kyrgyzstan. The programme comprises: specifically-designed TV episodes that will be included as part of the existing national children's TV series (Magic Journey) in the country, curriculum resources for use with pre-school children (aged 3-6), and training for teachers and parents. The programme will also incorporate multilingual education (MLE) teaching to support and promote teaching in mother tongues alongside the development of proficiency in Tajik or Russian. We are leading the evaluation of the media-based ECD programme in Tajikistan in partnership with colleagues from the Aga Khan Education Service (AKES). The evaluation will include a baseline survey, a formative evaluation of the pilot programme in 2018/2019, and a larger summative evaluation of the final programme in 2019/2020.
The proposed ECD programme in Tajikistan has been informed by the media-based ECD programme developed in Northern Ireland by Early Years (Media Initiative for Children: Respecting Difference). The TV animations for use in Tajikistan will be based on an existing Kyrgyz TV series called Keremet Koch (Magic Journey). The proposed series will consist of 12 episodes and will include 5 episodes aimed at promoting respect for diversity. Three Kyrgyz characters from Keremet Koch (Aktan, Akylai, and their donkey) along with three Tajik characters (Manizha, Bezhan, and their puppy) will feature in the animations. The animations will also feature two characters with a disability; a boy with a visual impairment and a girl with a physical impairment. Each episode is 10 minutes long and will be shown in ECE centres as part of the ECD programme. The curriculum resources are based on the Early Years International Toolkit and include lessons and activities centred around seven key themes. The curriculum will also be supported by the use of persona dolls based on each of the 8 characters portrayed in the TV animations. The programme will also include training for parents and teachers on the importance of doing diversity work with young children.
The research in Tajikistan will consist of three strands. A baseline survey is planned in order to provide high-quality evidence of existing levels of awareness and attitudes regarding socio-ethnic and cultural difference. The findings from the baseline survey will inform the final design of the pilot programme and research instruments. It is expected that the programme will be piloted from November 2018 to March 2019. The formative evaluation will be based on cluster randomised control trial design involving a total of 30 preschool settings (approximately 1,400 children). This will involve the delivery of the programme to 15 preschool settings in Sughd region, with a further 15 settings acting as a control group. The pilot will include the collection of quantitative outcome data from children, their parents/carers and ECE teachers at pre-test (October 2018), post-test (March 2019) and one-year follow-up (March 2020).
It is expected that the final revised programme will be delivered from November 2019 to March 2020. The summative evaluation will involve a cluster randomised controlled trial involving a total of 60 preschool settings (30 in Sughd, 30 in GBAO; approximately 2,800 children). Preschool settings will be randomly allocated to either the programme delivery group or the control group, with 30 settings randomly allocated to each. The evaluation will include the collection of quantitative outcomes data from children, their parents/carers and ECE teachers at pre-test (September 2019) and post-test (March 2020).
The majority of the short-term outcomes for the ECD programme in Tajikistan relate to improving awareness of cultural differences and willingness to engage with others who are different. It is proposed that these can contribute to horizontal social cohesion in the longer term by reducing negative stereotypes and prejudices held about different groups, promoting and increasing positive intergroup/cross-community contact and relationships, and building trust between different ethnic groups.
The focus of the early childhood development programme in Timor-Leste is on expanding access to pre-school education in rural areas through alternative community-based preschools. In addition to the pre-school curriculum, the programme also includes a parenting education and support component (Hametin Familia) aimed at improving parenting practice to support improved developmental outcomes for children. Although the two components of the programme are considered separate, Hametin Família began a partnership with the community-based alternative preschool programme in January 2016. The aim of this partnership is to boost the impact of the Hametin Família programme through improved links between adult education, early childhood development and child protection. We are leading the evaluation of the alternative community-based pre-school programme in Timor-Leste in partnership with colleagues from Universidade Nacional Timor Lorosa'e (UNTL). The evaluation will include a small pilot in late 2018 and a larger randomised control trial in 2019.
The community-based alternative pre-schools (CBAPs) are located in the Ermera and Viqueque municipalities, in aldeias (small villages) where there is no existing pre-school provision. The pre-schools started full operation in January 2016, following consultations with the Ministry of Education and efforts to mobilise local communities. To date, a total of 120 CBAPs have been established, with 60 located in each municipality. The pre-schools cater for children from 3 to 6 years of age and children can spend between 1-3 years in pre-school depending on their age at enrolment.
The local communities play an important role in running the pre-schools along with the School Management Committee which is made up of village leaders who oversee the running of the pre-schools. The engagement of Suco and Aldeia officials, and village elders is seen as key in terms of mobilising community engagement and support. The pre-schools are run by facilitators who are volunteers from the community and each pre-school has 2-3 facilitators. Facilitators are nominated by the community and receive training to enable them to deliver the pre-school curriculum and facilitate parenting education sessions. The Hametin Familia parenting programme aims to improve parents’ understanding of their role in their child’s development and improve parenting practices to support improved developmental outcomes.
The evaluation of the ECD programme will consist of two strands, a small feasibility pilot in late 2018 and a larger summative evaluation in 2019. The summative evaluation will use a cluster randomised control trial design and will include the collection of quantitative outcome data from teachers, parents, and children. The evaluation will also include some qualitative data collection through observations and focus group interviews with a selection of parents/carers and teachers regarding their views on the programme.
While the majority of the short term outcomes for the ECD programme will be developmental or health-related, it is proposed that these can contribute to social cohesion in the longer term by improving interpersonal relationships within families by promoting positive attachment and reducing corporal punishment, helping to build trust within communities as families come together around a common goal as part of the parenting programme, and improving trust in, and engagement with social services as participants recognise the positive outcomes of the programme for themselves, their families and communities.
Vietnam’s Holistic Parenting Programme is embedded within Vietnam’s Integrated Early Childhood Development strategy which aims to provide inclusive support and education about child development to parents of children from birth to eight years of age regardless of their income status or ethnic background. The programme is an adaptation of the “Nobody’s Perfect” programme in Canada and is delivered over eight weeks by communal and village trained facilitators and aims to directly improve parenting skills and reduce harsh parenting practices. It is also hypothesised that the programme will have an indirect positive effect on children’s developmental outcomes and will have a wider impact on community cohesion by providing a forum for greater engagement between caregivers of difference socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. The programme has not yet been implemented and its cross-cultural applicability is still to be determined. A pilot of the programme will take place in 2018 to test the feasibility of the programme. A larger scale randomised controlled trial is planned for 2019 to evaluate its effectiveness at improving child, parent and social cohesion outcomes.
In Vietnam, there is an Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD) Strategy which is a comprehensive life cycle-based approach involving policies, service provision and programmes for children from conception up to 8 years of age, their parents/caregivers and the communities where they live. The IECD strategy emphasises multi-sectoral service provision addressing essential ECD components including health, nutrition, education, social and child protection. It is an innovation built on five identified drivers of change: reduction of maternal and neonatal deaths, elimination of stunting, clean environment and good hygiene, early stimulation and early learning and a holistic parenting focus on the most vulnerable children to ensure they are safe, healthy, ready to learn and thrive.
The focus of the planned research is to evaluate one programme component in the IECD model in Vietnam, the Holistic Parenting Programme which is an adaptation of the Canadian parenting programme, ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. The programme focuses directly on improving the confidence and competence of parents which will also have a measurable effect on parenting skills and on children’s developmental outcomes. These will be the main outcomes of the evaluation however, secondary outcomes assessing how the parenting programme contributes to social cohesion will also be measured. The programme teaches parents about healthy child development and directs them to relevant, local early child development services which can provide necessary support and promote greater community engagement and in the long term, trust in services provided by the local government. The programme also promotes positive discipline methods aiming to reduce the occurrence of physical punishment and encourage positive relationships between children and their caregivers. The parenting groups established in the programme are composed of parents from different ethnic groups facilitating a forum to discuss parenting issues reducing parental stress and increasing confidence in parenting skills. They also provide a forum for greater engagement and improved relationships with other caregivers from different ethnic and household economic backgrounds. The Holistic Parenting Programme will provide a mechanism for improved child, caregiver and community social cohesion.
Vietnam’s Holistic Parenting Programme is delivered by communal and village trained facilitators to parents of children aged from birth to eight years of age (with focus more on parent of children under 5-year olds) through community-based parenting clubs. The community-based parenting clubs are held in community and village levels and take place weekly over eight weeks. It will be implemented in three provinces, namely Kon Tum, Gia Lai and Dien Bien in 9 selected Districts, 27 Communes and 305 villages targeting approximately 38,000 children and their parents/caregivers.
A pilot study to test the feasibility of the Holistic Parenting Programme will take place between October and December 2018 and after there has been sufficient time to reflect on the findings and make the required changes to the programme, a large-scale baseline evaluation of the will be conducted in 2019.