By Justin Kayiranga
Parents in Nyaruguru district are commending the role of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme, which has helped to prevent malnutrition issues in their children and provided them with quality early childhood education. This programme has resulted in a7% drop in the stunting rate since the establishment of ECD centers in the district.
Rwanda, similar to many other developing countries, has long been confronted with issues related to limited dietary diversity, insufficient intake of essential nutrients, and poor feeding practices that have contributed to chronic malnutrition, affecting the growth and development of children.
To address this issue, the government has put in place multiple strategies including the establishment of ECDs in every village especially in rural area.
In Nyaruguru district, since 2017, the initiative has led to establishment of 1038 ECD centers that are hosting children from different background including those from low-income families.
The program seems to have had a significant impact on the community by improving the lives of children and preventing malnutrition-related diseases, as testified by Muhorakeye Cecile, a resident of Mata sector in Nyaruguru district.
She said, “Before the establishment of this center in our village, my children used to get sick due to malnutrition. However, nowadays, with the presence of this center, they no longer fall ill like they did before.”
“At least every week, I was supposed to take them to the health center for treatment as some of them were having measles.”
According to the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey (RDHS)2015, the stunting rate among children in Nyaruguru was41.7% before the establishment of ECD centers. However, as of May2022, the rate has dropped to34.1%.
This is thanks to various government’s initiatives including ECDs as revealed by Jean Claude Nshimiyimana, the district health officer.
“It is evident that the numbers will continue to decrease because the ECDs are making a significant contribution to tackling malnutrition by promoting good hygiene practices. Current reports from health centers indicate that malnutrition cases have decreased to114, compared to more than200 cases recorded last year,” said Nshimiyimana.
Apart from saving the children from malnutrition related issues, the centers are also serving in providing them with basic childhood education by improving their thinking capacity with didactic materials.
Sezibera Jean Damascene, the headteacher at Nyarusange school in Busanze sector, attests that the ECD initiative has made a huge contribution to the basic education system by making teaching easier. Children who pass through the ECD program adapt and integrate themselves easily when they enter primary school, compared to those who did not.
“A child who passed through ECD has more thinking capacity than the one who didn’t. So, it’s hard for us (teachers) to integrate that student in the school activities as it is their first-time attendance to class.”
Within the ECDs in Nyaruguru, they host children who are aged between 2 to 5 years old.
Rwanda has recognized the importance of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in promoting the overall well-being and future prospects of its population. To achieve this, the government has implemented various initiatives and policies to support early childhood development, focusing on areas such as health, education, nutrition, and social protection.
By investing in early childhood development, Rwanda aims to ensure that all children have a strong foundation for lifelong learning, health, and well-being. These efforts contribute to Rwanda’s broader goals of poverty reduction, social equity, and sustainable development.