Community Child Care Centre
The Community Child Care Centre (4C) initiative provides institutionalized childcare in rural Nepal where the ability to pay for such services is minimal. As parents take up farm work from dawn to dusk, children as young as 5 or 6 could end up as primary care givers. The impact in education is that of late enrolments, high dropout rates, and poor school performances.
The 4C initiative is designed to provide early childhood education, freeing older children to pursue their own schooling. CFFN provides operational funds and educational tools for a period of three years, after which the centre becomes self-sustaining. We collaborate with villagers to maintain a low child-to-caregiver ratio and build income-generating programs to make the centres self-sustaining.
The Need For Community-Based Early Child Care in Rural Nepal
One of the facts of life in rural Nepal is that young children – some as young as 4 or 5 – are often called upon to care for their younger siblings. With mother and father toiling in the fields from dawn to dusk it often falls on the very young to be the primary caregiver to children often only 1 or 2 years their junior. This older child loses out on schooling either through late enrolment or being the first to abandon their studies. In some well documented cases the elder child brings their young siblings along to school enlarging the class size and disrupting the class discipline with toddlers who are all too young to sit quietly through hours of class work. For an education system already under stress such disruptions are felt by all students, quality of education drops and the cycle of poverty begins anew.
CFFN’s goal is to establish a model for sustainable village-oriented community daycare. This would provide supervised care from the time that siblings drop off their young charges in the morning on the way to school until they can pick them up after school closes.
The concept of early child care education is not new to Nepal. The government for many years has had a plan to have a series of child care centres rolled out in all 28,000 villages in Nepal. But the plan remains years behind schedule due to the lack of funding available and to the many legitimate but competing needs. So the program is largely underfunded and early child care facilities in rural districts are rare. Nevertheless the Government of Nepal has established training programs for communities that can provide their own centre and some funding to offset some of the salary costs. Still, despite this support, few communities have the means to build and maintain a structure, hire teachers and keep the enterprise running in good times and bad.
Our approach is to meet with a candidate village and offer the community a challenge grant.
The challenge grant is straightforward. The start up funding for construction materials and land purchase would be provided by CFFN in addition to ongoing operational funding for the first three years of operation. The community for their part provides the land, provides the labour for the building construction and ongoing maintenance, provides volunteer teachers to supplement the fulltime teachers to maintain a 7-to-1 child-to-adult ratio and provides the food so the children could have morning and afternoon snacks and a full meal at noon. The grant runs for three years and after that the community sustains the operation by themselves. We work with the community to determine how this sustainability could occur.
Our first community child care centre was created in the village of Sarkuwa where the villagers showed considerable interest. Within 6 months of first meeting with the villagers we returned to Sarkuwa to find the pilot child care centre up and running. Two teachers had been chosen from the community, a temporary location found and the two teachers had been sent off to another community to learn the fundamentals of early child care.
In November 2010, one year later, we returned to find the Madi Community Child Care Centre building 90% completed. A second story had been added to allow for a community meeting place, clinic space for visiting medical workers and, eventually sleeping accommodation for tourists.
While we were there we attended a meeting at the new building to discuss the progress and the overall status of the 4C project. The meeting was very well attended and we were able to get an understanding of many of the issues that come up when a community project of this kind is undertaken.
It is important in the pilot project to learn the true costs of establishing and maintaining such a facility as it is our wish to build more in other locations.
Breaking the cycle of poverty in Nepal will be a long and complex journey covering difficult terrain. But like all journeys, it goes step-by-step, village-by-village. Helping fix a systemic problem at the Primary School level is one of those steps and we believe community-based early child care is part of that fix.
The CFFN 4C model is within the reach of most villages in Nepal. The Nepalese Diaspora and the many Friends of Nepal living abroad could provide much of this support.