September 04, 2017

"I work hard to make the classroom fun and teach many of the lessons in a playful way"

Happiness helps children learn to read and write

Photo credit: BRAC

This week Theirworld is looking at the early childhood development workforce who help children under the age of five to grow and flourish - today we talk to two teachers.

Every child in the world deserves to fulfil their potential. That means giving them quality care and nurturing in the crucial first few years of their life.

By the time a child reaches five years old, 90% of their brain has already developed. During that time, they need access to quality care, including the five vital areas of nutrition, health, learning, play and protection.

That’s why Theirworld’s #5for5 campaign is calling on leaders to help make early childhood development a top priority.

The early childhood development workforce has a key role to play. In a special series this week, Theirworld talks to teachers, health workers and day care owners and managers about the challenges and the joys of helping to give children the best start in life.

Happiness Oswald, teacher  

I am 21 and work at Machimbo Pre-Primary School in Tanzania. 

I open my school at 7am and start prepping the class. By 7.45am all the students have arrived and we sing the national anthem. I run a physical inspection to ensure they’re all clean and we start the lessons at 8am. 

I teach three lessons a day and two are writing classes. 10am is usually break time where my students get a nutritious snack. 

They learn classroom activities but they also get a chance to break and play with their peers. We have arts classes and they draw and sing and dance. Children are in school until 12pm. 

The children in my class are usually four to six years old. They are required to be in class one by age six. However, some start late and that’s why they are still in pre-primary school.  

Parents are now more aware of sending their children to school, especially with the “fee-free” education announced by the government. The children I work with are usually from poorer backgrounds and single-mother households. 

The classroom has no chairs and tables. It’s a one teacher, one classroom kind of model which enables me to understand all the weaknesses my students have. We do a lot of decorations on the wall and include the children while decorating. 

Happiness is a 21-year-old teacher at Machimbo Pre- primary School in Tanzania

Photo credit: BRAC

I currently have 33 students in my class. For all the lessons I teach we use the Oxford books which follow the government curriculum. It’s been revised to include more fun activities but I’d say it also needs a lot of memorisation. 

Some things are too advanced for my learners but we have to follow the government guidelines and curriculum.  Pre-primary is provided by the government and has been mandatory since 2016. 

However, there aren’t enough trained teachers and not enough classrooms to handle all the children.  

The biggest challenges include providing the children with nutritious meals and the paying of school fees. The government could start providing snacks or midday meals to students. 

We are a community-based pre-primary school where parents are paying a very minimal fee. I would love to take my children out on field trips and provide them with rewards for doing well. But because of limited funding, I cannot do most of these things. 

Transportation is also a problem. Pre-primary schools are in the nearest primary schools, which are sometimes too far from the communities where children live and hence some parents would rather have their children stay home.  

I received pre-primary teacher training from BRAC in Tanzania and also get monthly refresher training. I am lucky that I’m teaching at a BRAC school.  

I would say, without any hesitation, that my students always do better than those that did not undergo pre-primary.

I work hard to make the classroom fun and teach many of the lessons in a playful way. Over time, my students are able to become confident, can communicate and can even take up leadership roles. They are able to come to peaceful settlement of conflicts and work better together. 

Children after the first year can write and string sentences together when they read. It makes me so happy to see my students advance like this and even happier when I help their parents enrol them into primary school. 

I follow up with their progress as these are children in my community. I know their parents and sometimes even their primary school teacher. 

I would say, without any hesitation, that my students always do better than those that did not undergo pre-primary.  

The parents are very engaged. They help me fetch water for the children. All the parents contribute for the midday meals and one or two parents actually deliver the food and ensure all the children have eaten and clean up after them. 

Early childhood development is important because it teaches children all the necessary things they’ll need to learn when they go to higher classes. Children perform better if they have a good ECD foundation.  

I love my job and hope I can advance my education so I can develop my career in this field.  

Jackline Nekesa is a mother of two and a pre-school teacher

Photo credit: Faith Ocharo

Jackline Nekesa, preschool teacher and mother

I have two children - a three-year-old boy and a girl of six. When they were young I took them to day cares. My husband was supportive - he is very responsible and involving.

I love being a teacher and handling baby class children as they are very playful. Once I get home I still have time to play with them and be involved in their activities.

At my baby class in Kenya I teach the children have access to play material. During break time, which is mostly after 30 minutes, the babies play with toys and even mould using plasticine with their friends outside the class. 

I have taught the children how to be clean after visiting the toilet and how to wash their hands. I prefer talking to the children and motivating them rather than giving punishments.

I teach them things like their body parts, since they are small and an only learn a few things. 

I handle almost 20 young children. Among them there is a boy who cannot talk and I am keen to help him transition to the next class without feeling different.

The children are from different backgrounds - some are not able to pay the fees but some do pay. Some parents can’t afford to bring the children so they stay with their kids until they turn six to be taken to free primary education.

Jackline helps young children learn through play

Photo credit: Faith Ocharo

They miss the early years of education and the government needs to find a solution for that.

You have to be patient dealing with kids because they are a handful. So I have learned to teach them according to their pace because the foundation is very important in a kid’s life.

Every morning when the children come from home they go to parade and then settle in class and they are taught for 30 minutes. Then they go play and come back to learn for 30 minutes again, then go to play and come back again to class for 30 more minutes.

After that they go outside for a long break with the rest of the children. The small children learn a little and play more so they are not exhausted.

Some of the children can now write. Some were poor eaters when they came and they now eat well and their body is stronger and the parents are appreciative. They are very supportive of what we do.

There are checkups in the school and vaccinations organised by the ministry of health.

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