Bogor, also called “City of Rain”, is a city between two mountains where the nature is greener, the air is fresher, and the pace is calmer than in the air-polluted capital city Jakarta. Despite its greener nature, the population of Bogor is growing fast, with Bogor Regency (the surrounding province) already over 4.7 million.
The Government of Indonesia is working together with UNICEF and its partners to achieve quality early childhood development. UNICEF has been developing programmes using the concept of Holistic Integrative Early Childhood Development (HI-ECD) in Indonesia for years. These projects help children grow, both mentally and physically, which improves their preparedness for school.
In 2017, Bogor District joined one of the Early Childhood Development (ECD) pilot projects, which is implemented by UNICEF Indonesia and has received funding from the IKEA Foundation´s Good Cause campaign, Let´s play for Change.
This project helps children in the poorest rural areas attain their right to better education, protection and sanitation/hygiene practices by developing standards on inclusive education for West Java Province. This includes also raising awareness of children´s growth phases and training for teachers, parents and communities. Since then, many things have changed.
The ECD programme educates teachers about how important it is for young children to learn through play, how to teach children the importance of sanitation, nutrition, education and especially how to encourage children to be more courageous.
During IKEA Finland´s trip to Bogor we had the chance to meet several teachers and join one of their monthly training meetings called a “teachers’ cluster meeting” in the high mountains. Every teacher was extremely proud that they are now supported with regular training sessions, where they can share their experiences and ideas for the curriculum with each other and also educate themselves.
Most of the teachers have only high school education and teachers with a higher level of education are hard to find. With the help of the funding, teachers have a chance to learn from each other, especially from those who are already trained by UNICEF.
In Indonesia kindergartens are known as PAUDs. During our journey we had opportunity to visit a few PAUDs, which get benefits from the ECD project but are in different phases of the programme. Some of these PAUDs have more difficulties than others with the standards of their physical environment because of lack of resources (low capacity, lack of more highly educated teachers, gaps in knowledge, insufficient political support and funding).
There are around 3,000 kindergartens in area of Bogor. So far, the programme has supported 100 of these PAUDs/kindergartens and in short time successfully trained teachers and communities to implement inclusive education. Unfortunately, there is still lot of work to do to sustain these improvements into the future. It will be a challenge to spread the benefits to the rest of the PAUDs in Bogor´s district. Some PAUDs lack essential facilities like toilets, water taps for handwashing and playgrounds, which makes it difficult to improve during the short project period. Let´s hope that, in the future, all the kindergartens will get basic facilities to make children´s development secure and healthier.
The first impressions in the PAUDs were modest but when we met the children, they melted our hearts. All the smiling faces, singing songs, dancing, playing and learning sessions with teachers…they really felt happy and talented!
It was nice to notice that all the PAUDs were decorated very colourfully and the walls were covered with all kinds of teaching materials or children’s crafts. Teachers told us proudly that they use mainly recycled materials in making crafts with kids.
We discovered, by talking with teachers and mothers, that they all are really proud of the changes from the ECD programme and want to improve things together in the future, when the funding of the ECD project finishes.
Some children travel far to the kindergartens but playing with other kindergarten kids is one of the most important things in their life at that age. It was overwhelming to see all the children participating, enthusiastic and eager to learn new things, such as growing chillies, fishing, alphabets and numbers. Many kindergarten kids dream to become teachers or doctors. With the programme´s help they are one step closer towards these goals.
The programme educates teachers to use curricula in their everyday work and to use at least six aspects from the day´s theme in every lesson, such as religion (over 87% of the population are Muslim), maths and science.
Community-based services sustain co-operation between communities, teachers and parents—and their understanding that children learn by playing is vital to the ECD centres’ futures.
There were really eye-widening differences between model kindergartens and places which were at the beginning of the programme’s help. But it was nevertheless great to witness that model projects are working, and children’s centres are starting to improve the everyday lives of kids.
After visiting in kindergartens and maternity “clinics”, our IWitness team were thinking how we would like to help communities in Bogor. We remembered that in Finland all expecting mothers get a maternity package provided by Kela, Finland´s social insurance institution. Maybe this “baby box” scheme could be spread somehow also to all new mothers in Bogor´s rural areas. All expecting mothers would get few personal care items, sleeping bag and towels etc. We´ll see what happens in the future. It would be great to witness, after few years, how the kindergartens we visited have developed and are continuing their great work with new kids.