ForAfrika: Well-functioning ECD centres make for better-off communities


Young children are healthier and communities wealthier when there is a well-functioning early childhood development (ECD) centre fully accessible to them, says Dr Mary Okumu, head of ForAfrika’s Technical Unit.

ForAfrika, which is Africa’s largest humanitarian and development organisation, recently started building its showcase ECD centre in Rwanda’s Kamonyi district. The organisation began using ECD centres as the cornerstone of its community development efforts when it became obvious that the centres sparked improvements in communities’ overall well-being in South Africa and Rwanda. In both countries ForAfrika’s largest programming pillar is education.

“Our design, monitoring, evaluation, accountability and learning (D-MEAL) efforts found that ECD centres can indeed be used as a gateway to access vulnerable communities with integrated programming that leads to transformation and sustainable community development. That is very exciting to us because our goal is to empower 20-million African people to provide for themselves sustainably by 2032,” says ForAfrika’s Group CEO, Isak Pretorius.

In 2023, ForAfrika’s records showed that 3 246 children in Rwanda were in better health than they would otherwise have been because this form of integrated ECD programming was applied in Rwanda. What’s more, the ForAfrika Rwanda ECD Model ensures a good gender balance in all areas, including representation and participation, good health and nutrition, social development and well-being and learning outcomes.

The benefits ForAfrika has witnessed go wider than the children enrolled at ECDs that the organisation supports. Whole communities have seen reduced malnutrition rates and women have enjoyed improved financial security through the establishment of 101 village savings and loans associations (VSLAs)

These VSLAs have collectively deposited more than $8 230 in banks and disbursed loans totalling $6 130 to their members, with an interest rate of 5%.

Additionally, in 2023 ForAfrika hired nine plots of land as demonstration sites for farming groups and supported VSLA members with financial and business skills training and links to financial services.

Improved water, sanitation and hygiene practices at ECD centres have reduced the transmission of diseases and improved community knowledge of positive health practices. Also, ForAfrika has observed increased community resilience to climate and food security shocks.

The new Kamonyi district ECD centre, funded by Reiner Meutsch Stiftung Fly & Help, will have three classrooms, child-friendly toilets, a kitchen, an office for the teachers and a rainwater harvesting system for water use and conservation. Other facilities include a large playground with locally made toys and equipment and a vegetable garden that will be used to provide nutritious meals for the children.

Importantly, the hub will demonstrate ForAfrika’s method of using ECD centres as entry points to wider community development.

In Rwanda, the lack of childcare services puts a lot of pressure on mothers to stay at home when they would rather be out at work, contributing to the family’s income, says Dr Okumu. Other ForAfrika ECD centres in the country have allowed women to work and also to gather together for other initiatives such as VSLAs, and skills transfer and training programmes.

“The new ECD centre will support both the quality education of children and the need for mums to have a safe and fun place to leave their children during the workday,” says Grace Reinhold at ForAfrika’s German fundraising office. “All this aims to strengthen rural communities so that they can achieve their goals and truly thrive.”

Says Dr Okumu, “Importantly, community engagement played a pivotal role during the project design stage and throughout the project management cycle. This is our model, always. ForAfrika consults communities and works to ensure that they meaningfully participate in all aspects of a project.”

The new centre will be actively managed by ForAfrika, the Kamonyi district authorities and the Presbyterian Church in Rwanda, which donated the land. The centre, which is intended to be used as a model for other areas, will benefit 400 children and their families. Additionally, 10 centre staff will receive training that focuses on children’s cognitive development, nutrition, hygiene and protection.

ForAfrika is the largest African humanitarian and development organisation working for an Africa that thrives. Partnering intimately with our communities, ForAfrika brings resources and implements locally led programmes to empower 20-million Africans to be self-sustained and have a platform to thrive by 2032.

Leave a Reply