Childhood development programs are essential and important for all citizens. But early childhood development and care initiatives by government, NGOs, private sectors and donors are particularly beneficial for the working-class citizens of Bangladesh, who earn just enough to make ends meet.
Having dropped out of school a few years ago, Rubel, the son of factory worker parents, has been looking for a job without much luck. Rubel spent most of his childhood living with his grandparents. Now 17, Rubel came to Dhaka to live with his parents when he was 11. Whether for starting school late at the age of eight or for other hardships, Rubel experienced learning difficulties which eventually resulted in dropping out of school. What is obvious however, is that his learning problems are rooted in the lack of proper early childhood care. Rubel's story is hardly an anomaly in Bangladesh.
The harsh reality of the situation is that children of the labour class do not get early childhood care and education (ECCE) because of poverty. These labour class parents often send their kids back home in the villages they come from where they live under the supervision of, often reluctant, relatives. Those children that remain with their parents in the city also invariably suffer from lack of attention and care.
As indicated in Early Childhood Development: A Statistical Snapshot, a UNICEF data compilation document, less than 20 percent children attend early childhood education programs in Bangladesh.
During the years of early childhood the ground work of personality pattern construction begins, which gradually shapes the future personality
The psychological perspective
“The learning process in early childhood care and education prevents dropping out in the future,” said Arifa Rahman, assistant professor, Department of Psychology, University of Dhaka.
Professor Rahman stressed that the first five years is one of the most important periods of an individual's life. She said, “During the years of early childhood the ground work of personality pattern construction begins, which gradually shapes the future personality. Any deprivations from family at this age lead to serious damage to psychological environment and behavioural pattern and social life.”
“The entire process basically prepares children for future life by teaching them about institutional rules, meeting new people, mannerism, creative learning, playing and so many other things,” She added.
Arifa Rahman reaffirms common sense saying that spending quality time with parents is a necessity for children to have the right development. “Naturally, work creates stress and labour class parents should have the necessary education for dealing with the after-work stress and spending quality time with children,” she said.
For this necessary education, Prof Rahman says, employers must play an important role.
“Employers can organise workshops on parenting for their workers. Not only will this help rejuvenate workers' performance but a consequent happier personal life means a better, more productive work force, which will ultimately benefit the organisation,” she added.
Road to triumph
During the recess period in one corner of a room Babul and Rina were playing with a miniature cooking pot set. On the other corner Rakib was flipping through the pages of a pictorial book about animals, while on the opposite two corners Bayzid, Aklima and Tania were playing with colourful blocks. This is a scene from “Shoishob Class – Early Learning Centre” at Sardagaj Govt Primary School in Gazipur.
The colourful walls in the classroom certainly indicates that the children's needs are being catered to. The school is indeed mindful about creating an effective learning environment. The early childhood class allows a maximum of 20 students and the topics taught in class include mannerism, indoor and outdoor playing, storytelling, environmental knowledge, and creative activities.
With the aim to prepare around six thousand girls and boys for school, Shoishob Class is part of a project that is working in 14 factories in Gazipur, Dhaka and Chittagong districts. Titled “A Garment Worker’s Children” the project is funded by PVH Corp with technical assistance provided by Save The Children. The project utilises classrooms at government primary schools in the catchment area.
“An early childhood program is very important to prepare a child for school-life and further education. The government also understands its importance, as we can see a key recommendation of the National Education Policy 2010 has been providing pre-primary education (PPE) for all children. The government is trying but there is always a shortage of teachers in primary schools. And through such initiatives by factory owners, NGOs are basically helping out the government to reach the goal of 100 percent school enrolment,” said the headmistress of Sardagaj Govt Primary School.
The factory management at Beximco also values the importance of the initiative. “30 percent of the students are the children of our workers,” said Khalid Sharior, general manager, human resources and compliance, Beximco. The other children under the project come from families that are related or close to the Beximco workers, which Sharior says help create a comfortable environment for the students and the parents. But for the employers, the biggest benefit is less worker migration. “Getting a good education for their children has build up a sense of contentment which resulted in less worker migration,” Khalid Sharior said.
Beximco also arranges sessions for mothers so that they can help in their children's education. Parenting resource centre facilitator Nargis Parvin said, “Mothers of young childrencan borrow books and toys from the centre. If she can read it then great, otherwise we instruct her how to tell the story to her kids with the help of images.”