The early years of childhood are crucial to every child’s development as they lay the foundations for their future health and happiness. A lack of nurturing care—which includes adequate nutrition, stimulation, love and protection from stress and violence—can impede the development of a child’s brain. Realizing the importance of early childhood, the Government of Indonesia is working with UNICEF to achieve a national movement for quality early childhood development. UNICEF has been developing programmes using the concept of Holistic Integrative Early Childhood Education (HI-ECD) in Indonesia for years. This is like a “one-stop-shop” for children, offering them an education, health check-ups, nutrition and protection.
In Indonesia, kindergartens are known as PAUDs. They offer a non-formal education to children during their early years and are where UNICEF runs its HI-ECD programmes. PAUD Banu Manaf was one of the first places to receive UNICEF assistance in North Lombok in 2015-2016. Since then, many things have changed. UNICEF training has taught the teachers how important it is for young children to learn through play. Teachers have also learned to build a lesson using things around them, be more organised and, most importantly, be more patient in teaching the children.
According to one of the teachers, most mothers like to sit on the front steps, chatting, snacking and enjoying the sun while waiting for their children. This intimacy helps reinforce the community spirit behind HI-ECD. It also makes it easy to keep parents informed about their children’s development. Although some parents still want the school to teach their children how to read and write, some already understand that children at this age are supposed to play.
A while ago, I had a chance to visit Bogor district in West Java. Located 1,395km west of North Lombok, the PAUDs in this district are like the ones in North Lombok before UNICEF’s intervention. Mothers must take their children quite far from home to reach the PAUD, which in another village. Parents want their children to be taught how to read and write, and teachers try to teach everything at once.
Bogor district is an area with a significant population growth in Indonesia. This creates a high demand for early childhood development services, and is a priority since only half of all children in their early years can access these services at this moment.
PAUDs are generally private institutions, run and funded by the community when there is limited public funding through. This means most community-based PAUDs in Bogor region don’t have enough funding. Many are run by under-trained, under-qualified volunteers and most do not meet the national minimum standards. Many PAUDs in Bogor also have physical limitations such as a lack of access to a dedicated building and have little choice but to use the living room of a principal’s or teacher’s house. Some have their own building but the fragile construction poses a danger to students, and they lack essential facilities like toilets or playground areas.
This year is the first time that UNICEF Indonesia has received funding from the IKEA Foundation’s Let’s Play for Change campaign. In collaboration with the Government of Indonesia, UNICEF will use this support to pilot quality ECD programmes in Bogor district. This will create a framework for improving the quality of early childhood development services across the whole area.
At the end of March, UNICEF Indonesia will host the IWitness team from Germany. They will visit several PAUDs that could benefit from this pilot programme. The team will visit rural areas in Bogor district to witness the current conditions of some of the PAUDs. They will have a chance to meet children, teachers and other members of the community and to learn how the IKEA Foundation’s support can make a huge impact by giving children a chance to develop to their full potential.
As a comparison, the IWitness team will also get a glimpse of how children learn through play and receive quality care in nutrition, health and child protection by visiting model ECD centres in Jakarta established by Indonesia’s Ministry of Education and Culture. I am excited to take our visitors to see the initial stages of this programme and meet the children in Bogor.