For a few years now, Impact Network has been thinking about what happens to our students as they enter grade 1. For almost the entire class, it’s their first time being in school. They are learning how to hold a pencil, mastering the fine motor skills necessary to write the letter “A”, and learning the alphabet. It’s an important time for them – but it can also be quite challenging.
There is unquestionable evidence that Early Childhood Education (ECE) can drastically improve student outcomes later in schooling, but there remains very few options for school for students aged 3-6 in many African contexts. Where we work in Zambia, while there is a stated desire for more ECE, but without additional resources, classroom space, and dedicated teachers, it’s impossible to implement in rural areas.
That’s why Impact Network opened its first pilot ECE class earlier this month! I was thrilled to be able to observe our first classes at Joel Community School earlier this week. The classroom was filled with brightly colored chairs, a few clusters of desks, and play mats where the children sat for circle time, songs, and discussions. Their teacher sat with them in a large circle and they used dolls to discuss the people that make up their family. Some students were shy explaining who they have – mama, daddy, umbuya (grandmother), aunts, uncles, cousins. The teacher used dolls to explain how families worked together. I cannot wait to see these students progress through our Impact Network schools!
And I have to say – the kids were so cute. I say that as someone who has seen thousands of kids walk through our schools over the last six years. But they were absolutely adorable.