Developing Nicaragua’s full potential with early childhood development

Developing Nicaragua’s full potential with early childhood development

Pauline Verhaeghe's picture

Fabretto’s Children Foundation is using play to improve early childhood development in underserved communities in Nicaragua. With a train-the-trainer approach, Fabretto is ensuring a new generation of empowered teachers for a better education.

 

What are the top challenges you are experiencing in your work with children’s learning? How, exactly, are you overcoming those challenges?

In our effort to improve early grade education standards in underserved Nicaraguan communities, we face the following three challenges:

Inexperienced and/or untrained teachers – In Nicaragua, over 70 per cent of preschool teachers have received no formal training and in cases have not even received a high school diploma.
 
Malnutrition – Child malnutrition is a major issue in underserved Nicaraguan communities. For example, in the Madriz and Nueva Segovia Departments where Fabretto has several education centers, the reported prevalence of chronic malnutrition for children under five is above 27 per cent, well above the national rate of 17 per cent. Chronic malnutrition can stunt children’s height, weight and brain growth, and have a devastating impact on their ability to learn in the classroom.
 
Parent Engagement – The idea of Early Childhood Development and stimulating a child’s curiosity can be a difficult concept to communicate in communities where parent education levels are low and access to ECD services is almost non/existent.

To address these challenges, Fabretto is taking the following corresponding actions:

Fabretto trains preschool teachers in active learning methodologies such as Montessori and provides them with necessary teaching/learning materials to create classroom environments that stimulate young minds. Through these activities, Fabretto trained teachers encourage children to explore and express themselves as they learn, and many lessons involve hands-on or participative activities that prepare them for primary school.
 
Fabretto provides a daily nutritious meal fortified with essential vitamins and minerals to alleviate nutritional deficiencies and help them to focus on learning. The meal provided, for many students, will be the only complete meal they receive during the day. The meal which typically consists of rice, beans, soy protein, vegetables, and fruit, provides 60 per cent of the suggested daily caloric intake for a child. Fabretto has found that school meals not only boost child height and weight but also attendance and focus in the classroom.
 
Fabretto holds parent workshops to address issues surrounding the importance of education and parents’ role in their child’s development. Topics to covered include the importance of early grade education, domestic violence, gender issues, and positive habit development. The goal of this interaction is to develop family leaders who encourage their children to excel in the classroom and who understand the opportunities, economic or otherwise, created by education.

What has been the community’s reaction to your work?

The communities we work with have always responded positively to Fabretto’s support. I think over the years they have developed an understanding and appreciation of the impact our services have had and can have at the individual, family, community, and even national level.

What is the best way to put children in charge in the classroom and why is it beneficial for their development?

I think it is important to give children options/decision making in learning. Allow them to choose whether they want to cultivate their math skills, their art talent, or their ability to read. When they make these choices, take notice, encourage them to pursue those interests further in creative ways. It is amazing how your level of learning increases when you are interested.

What is your vision for the future of your work and of education in general?

Our vision at Fabretto is a prosperous Nicaragua where all children and adolescents have meaningful opportunities to grow and learn, in communities that offer access to quality education, so that they may reach their full potential.

 

Fabretto’s Children Fonudation is a Champion of the Re-imagine Learning Challenge launched by Ashoka and the LEGO Foundation.

Ashoka and the LEGO Foundation believe in the need to re-imagine learning and in the importance of play as the best way for children to develop critical skills and engage them as creative changemakers.

We are selecting and supporting the first global network of social innovators to re-imagine learning for the 21st century. For more information, check out our website, follow us on Twitter with #play2learn and on Facebook. If you or someone you know is re-imagining learning for the 21st century, nominate them here.

​– This blog was originally published on Virgin.com