“Our school has 420 children who are vulnerable or disabled from Nairobi slums”

Director Lily Oyare Kenya
Lily is the founder and director of Little Rock inclusive early childhood development centre in Ayani, Kibera (Little Rock)

Child nutrition (Early years), Childcare, Early childhood development, ​Learning through play (Early years), Safe pregnancy and birth

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 leaders.

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.

Lily Oyare, school director

I am the founder and director of Little Rock inclusive early childhood development centre in Ayani estate at Kibera, Kenya. I am a trained teacher. 

Our school has 420 children who are vulnerable or disabled. There are all kinds of disabilities here – including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, blindness and intellectual disability.

We have 60 staff members comprising of 30 teachers and 30 mothers.

The school started in 2003 and was influenced by me being a volunteer earlier on. For two years in the slum, when the Kenyan government started free primary education, I saw the urge to fill the gap for the children who were not in school.

We did not start with special needs children. But in 2006 we got our first special children, which made me go back to college to study special education. 

We trained the teachers and talked to many parents in the slum, to bring their children instead of hiding them in the houses.

Little Rock has worked with 1021 children and 626 have transitioned to primary school. Some have gone on to high school and we pay their school fees and work closely with them.

We have special children from different slums in Nairobi – from Kawangware, Kibera and the furthest is from Huruma slum, which is 20 kilometres from the school. 

The school has 60 staff members comprising of 30 teachers and 30 mothers.

We have plans to build a recreational centre for the school because it is a challenge to cater for disabled children so that they can be trained in life skills, indoor sports and art.

There is nutrition care given to each child, as well as therapy care. Some of the orphans are taken to the hospital thus reducing communicable diseases. Every term they are given deworming tablets.

We also have a day care with kids as young as four months. We have income-making activities where mothers are able to make uniforms for parents and sometimes neighbouring schools. This money is used to buy food for their children.

Our children also participate in recreational activities like football and we have a team of 95 children from different ages – and a group which does music and another for computing skills.

The day care makes sure that their children are well groomed and taken care of. 

Manager Cynthia Koredo Moses

Cynthia looks at what the daycares need to succeed and improve the wellbeing of the children (Tiny Totos)

Cynthia Koredo Moses, leadership manager

My job as a leadership manager with Tiny Totos entails impacting the lives of entrepreneurs within day cares. I take them through the holistic journey and coach them how to take care of the lives of children and also improve their business to be self-sustainable.

Tiny Totos is a social enterprise institution in Kenya. It helps entrepreneurs develop cost-effective solutions, improve the wellbeing of children by impacting the life of the entrepreneur to provide affordable, safe and stimulating day care services.

We look at the things they need to put in place. For example, how can they effectively run their business, what care are they giving, is the impact being felt by all involved?

We look at capacity-building, zero-rated interest loans and coaching processes in developing leadership.

Esther’s Day Care is one success story. Two years ago it was not in a good form. It had a one-bedroom setup with 15 to 20 children. Now she gets 40 children a day. 

It used to just be taking care of the children but now also has a meal service that gives her additional income. The nutritional meal is well balanced and through word of mouth she gets more clients.

Early childhood development is a key area in any person’s growth. We look at the physical, emotional and social wellbeing. 

The government should come up with a policy and guidelines to make it easier and cost-effective to run a day care. Cynthia Koredo Moses, leadership manager, Tiny Totos

How safe is the child under the care of the entrepreneur and that is why we improve the infrastructure to ensure safety. We also encourage parents to take part in our parent outreach meetings and show them how to take care of their children at home. 

We also look at the emotional wellbeing of a child, why they are crying, the importance of understanding the developmental growth of a child.

We do growth monitoring assessment to see the progress of the child under our daycare. Some of the kids come to us malnourished but we see good progress because of our meals. 

Parents tell us their children are more alert and attentive and we see whatever they are learning at these centres they take with them to their higher classes. Even other managers come to us asking us to develop teaching materials for them.

We are yet to bridge the gap in ECD to where we would like to be. I feel a lot of day care entrepreneurs are in hiding because of the costly legal processes in establishing a day care. 

The government should come up with a policy and guidelines to make it easier and cost-effective to run one.

We also need a tailor-made capacity-building system in place to ensure a level playing field for all entrepreneurs. The main thing is passion and commitment to give the best to the children.

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