In May 2013 Cotlands rolled out its early learning playgroup programme nationally.
The Cotlands early learning playgroups are free and are available to children below the age of six that is not accessing early childhood development services. The sessions are packed with learning experiences that prepare children for school. Each child receives a nutritious meal to aid with physical and cognitive development.
While the programme was successful in improving the learning ability of children who regularly attended the sessions, Cotlands realised that numbers dwindled after the initial burst of enrolments. After consultation with staff implementing the groups and parents we realised that more can be done to retain children who enrol in the programme.
One of the biggest challenges for us has been educating parents on their role in the child’s learning process. To tackle this problem we have secured the pro-bono services of Connet Systems who have developed a unique USSD system that will encourage parent engagement and include them in the learning process.
We also realised that the time it takes for children to walk to the playgroups was a serious deterrent. Parents who walked their children to playgroups expressed concern in not being able to attend to other matters before it was time for fetch their children again.
Another worry was that early learning facilitators did not have enough time to give one on one attention to children with severe developmental delays.
In light of these challenges Cotlands has undertaken to extend its early learning programme from 2 hours twice a week to 4 hours twice a week.
The implementation of the extra hours will have ripple effects.
With the implementation of an extra 2 hours we will need to provide children with two meals per session. This will put significant strain on our food budget. However, it is imperative that children have the right nutrition to help them concentrate, learn and grow.
The extended programme means that we will not be able to reach our target of 2700 (100 children per
ELF) by April 2015. We have had to adjust our early learning playgroup numbers to cater for the combined class and we did this in accordance with regulations and best practice. Each ELF will now reach 70 children by April 2015. This means that Cotlands would enrol and retain 1890 children by the next financial year in the early learning playgroup programme.
If we want to increase the number of children reached we need to increase the number of ELF’s we employ.
As donors and supporters of our cause we hope that you will walk with us on this journey to improve the lives of children in need.