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Gitesi ECD Centre: Childcare initiatives that by extension strengthen parents’ incomes

When the children arrive at the school in the morning, at 8a.m, they go to classes for one hour, and then they are given porridge, fortified with milk with eggs for accompaniment, at 9a.m and get back to classes at 10a.m. After an hour, at 11.00am, they are sent home, ending the day’s lessons. But in-between, when they get tired, develop ill-health or any situation that requires resting, there is a spacious room, with six cozy beds where the infants can rest until their parents can pick them.File 19341

This is Gitesi ECD, a kindergarten in a remote rural Munanira Cell, Gitesi Sector in Karongi District, opened in February 2012. Built with support from ActionAid Rwanda, the school has classroom, office and resting blocs. It also has a store, a chicken house, teaching and playing aids, modern toilets and bathrooms all built and equipped with ActionAid Rwanda finances.

The Headmistress of the school, Ms Cecile Uwamariya, says the parents were given a fully equipped school, to which they as well added income generating projects. “ActionAid Rwanda at the launch of the school also gave us four cows which have since calved and multiplied to eight, 200 chicks, all the school furniture and money enough to pay staff salaries for one year.”

The kindergarten is a blessing to the children and parents from around its proximities as the headmistress reminisces.

File 12618Gitesi Women Cooperative group, TuzamureAgaseke which partnered with ActionAid to build the ECD centre

“Ordinarily, children begin primary at age 7, knowing nothing. But when they go through the nursery, they join primary section when they have internalized the basic values of child school socialization—playing, singing, drawing, conversing, reading and writing.The children learn to love studying at that age. In fact the 26 children who left this school last year and joined Kirambo Primary School take the first positions in the termly performance.”

Musabyimana Crysostom, an A2 nurse at Centre de Santé Kirambo, says the school significantly contributes to the health of the children. “The values of hygiene and sanitation are instilled among the children at a very early stage of their lives in addition to proper feeding, grooming, and resting. The school itself is very clean. The pupils and parents do learn that discipline as well.”

From the cows, the school gets 32 liters of milk per day, some of which is taken with breakfast porridge for the 77 children aged between 3-5 (42 boys, 35 girls), 3 teaching and 4 support staff. About 80% of the eggs are sold and 20% are prepared for children’s consumption. The school has also got vegetable gardens. Because the center is prepared to be self-sustaining, much of the revenue is used in running school operations. During holidays, all the milk and eggs are sold.

Parents contribute Rwf1,000 per monthfor school operations but those who cannot afford to pay are, twice a month, invited to participate in the preparation of gardens from which vegetables for their children are harvested. “It strengthens their ownership of the school and the activities thereof,” says the headmistress.

Adeline Uwifashije, 33, a parent of the school says apart from her kid accessing pre-school services, she (as a parent) has adopted the farming methods of kitchen gardens (akarimak’igikoni) which she now practices.

Ingabire Jacqueline, a teacher at the school, says; “with hygiene and sanitation, we teach the children by doing. For the children who come to school without bathing, we take them to the bathrooms and bathe them.”

The center benefits all stakeholders in more ways than one as NyirandakomejeAlphonsine, 30, with a child at the center testifies. “My child was very shy and could hardly mix with other children, but today he is a very social child. Another advantage with this Center, I get ample time to tend my gardens and take my produce to the market. I could not get that enough time before.”

One of the teachers, Ingabire, has since acquired more skills in child pedagogy and care, while the headmistress has acquired additional training in child care and development, child healthcare and project planning and management all courtesy of ActionAid Rwanda.