Sawulia Community, Bombali, SIERRA LEONE, September 9, 2021 - The Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education, (MBSSE), with financial and technical support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), has completed the construction of 30 new early childhood development (ECD) centers in three districts of Sierra Leone. The ECD centres are furnished with tables and chairs for children and teachers, desegregated toilets, and outdoor playgrounds.
A ceremony to officially unveil the classrooms took place at Sawulia Community in Bombali, signifying the opening of doors to an estimated 2,100 children from Bombali, Pujehun, and Kambia who will now attend classes in fully-furnished child-friendly ECD centers.
“His Excellency President Julius Maada Bio has laid a new focus on ECD through the Free Quality School Education program. Our Ministry has developed, validated and disseminated a new National Policy on Integrated Early Childhood Development and embarked on training care providers and teachers all towards strengthening the human capital of Sierra Leone. We will continue to build safe spaces for our children to play, learn and thrive,” explained Honorable Minister David Sengeh, Minister of Basic and Senior Secondary Education.
The new ECD centers come as a growing body of research has demonstrated the importance of expanding early childhood development to support optimum child growth and development.
In Sierra Leone, poverty, stunting from poor nutrition, social norms and inadequate financial resources are highlighted in the National Policy on Integrated Early Childhood Development (IECD), as factors which limit children’s access to early child development opportunities.
Only 12 percent of children aged 3-5 years-old attend an organized early childhood education program in Sierra Leone. Just 2 percent of children under five have access to three or more reading books.
“Early childhood education is one of the best investments a country can make to prepare children for learning and give them a chance to thrive later in life,” said Alice Albright, CEO of the Global Partnership for Education.
The ECD centers were built as part of the GPE-funded program “Getting it right, building strong foundations for learning,” started in October 2020. The centers will make a significant contribution to children’s learning, play and socio-emotional development.
Each of the 30 centers include two spacious classrooms that are fully furnished with desks and chairs for 30–35 children to sit comfortably in each room. A teacher’s desk, and chair as well as storage facilities for playing and learning materials, have also been provided. Each center also includes separate toilets for boys and girls and a solar-powered borehole to promote proper sanitation and hygiene practices such as handwashing.
To stimulate children’s social and emotional development, teaching and learning materials including picture books have been supplied to the centers, along with an outdoor playground.
Educators from the centers have participated in training on play-based early stimulation and learning approaches, development and use of low-cost teaching and learning materials to promote school readiness.
“UNICEF remains dedicated to support the strengthening of early childhood development so that every child has the opportunity to develop and grow regardless of their social or economic background,” said UNICEF Acting Representative, Ms. Liv Elin Indreiten. “We believe that these centers will bring a lot of hope and aspirations to children across different communities.”
Going forward, 35 more early childhood development centers will be built in Bombali, Karene, Kambia, Kenema and Moyamba with funding from GPE, Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) and UNICEF. The MBSSE, GPE and UNICEF will continue to support the capacity development of early childhood educators to help them deliver a quality, play-based curriculum to the children enrolled at the centers.
For more information, please contact:
- Brima Michael Turay | Public Relations Officer | Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education. Email | email@example.com | Tel: +232 76 450134
- Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa | UNICEF Communications Specialist | Email | firstname.lastname@example.org | Tel: +232 76 100532
- Tamara Kummer | GPE media lead | Email | email@example.com | Tel: +33 7 82 26 07 18