The Crucial Early Years of Life

Although Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) is a right recognized in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, 7 out of 10 children do not enroll for pre-primary school in Cambodia (UNICEF, 2008-2012). These children mainly live in poor and remote areas, as At Phat’s children who live in extreme poverty in Kraing Yov, Kandal.

 

As a child, At Phat worked in the rice fields and she could not go to school. Today, her capacity to work is limited due to serious health concerns, and she can only do some light work from home. As a result, her family’s financial conditions are hindered. Despite this dire situation, she has always wanted her children to go to school. Her wish became true when her children started to attend the community preschool.

 

Her youngest daughter, Rene, 4 years old, started to attend the iLEAD community preschool supported by AEA Cambodia two months ago. “Rene is already able to count from 1 to 10. She starts to learn the Khmer alphabet,” explains her mother proudly. Early childhood is a time of remarkable brain development with a high potential for learning.

 

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 ©AEA Cambodia / 2015 / Chin

 

An integrated programme

Through an integrated approach, AEA provides essential services in health, nutrition, care, protection, early stimulation and learning to young children. This is of primary importance through the period of their growth. What children experience during the early years sets a foundation for their entire lives and is formative not only for individual health and physical development, but also for cognitive and social-emotional development.

 

Parenting education activities provide villagers with information to improve their understanding of parenting roles and help them to fully participate in the development of their children. “My children have less health problems,” says At Phat. “They always drink clean water through the purifying filter in the school. I follow the teacher’s advice at home, I always boil the water for the daily consumption of my family.” As she can enjoy a better health and nutrition as well as cognitive and non cognitive stimulation, Rene is now more likely to reach her full potential.

 

An essential preparation for formal schooling

As a result of a weak early childhood education system in Cambodia, especially in rural areas, challenges persist with children enrolling in school at a later age, dropping out or repeating classes. Community pre-school education better prepares children for formal schooling and aids them to be more socialized and adjusted for school life.

 

Rene’s sister, Linda, has been prepared to enter formal education. “Last year, she attended the community preschool in the teacher’s house. Since then, she had made a lot of progresses. She is more opened and less afraid of teachers. She adapts better in the school life.”  She is now in grade 1 at the public primary school of the village. “Her classmates and teachers appreciate her a lot. She can read very well, and on the way to school she likes reading a sings along the road,” says her mother. “This is the result of her participation to preschool. In my family, no one could ever read.”

 

In 2014, nearly 20,000 young children especially from remote and marginalized populations were supported through AEA’s early childhood activities in Southeast Asia and China. These children will develop and will perform better in schools. They are expected to grow physically healthy, mentally alert, emotionally secured and socially competent. 

 

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 ©AEA Cambodia / 2015 / Chin