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First Five Foundational years

In our series, A-Z of childhood, this week we are going to talk about alphabet ‘F’. For us F stands for ‘First Five Foundational Years’. Every child needs effective early childhood education and development right from the birth to age five. Mobile Creches long intervention in early childhood development shows that low – income children are the ones who face the consequences of deprivation at this tender age, the most. Therefore reaching out to them is very important so that they experience quality early care and have better education, health, social and economic outcomes in life – increasing their productivity and reducing the need for spending later on.

So how the fascinating journey of life unfolds in this critical period? What all things shape a child’s development? We try to answer all your questions today.

The Need

Numerous line of research confirms that early years in a child life are the years of rapid physical and mental growth and change. Children learn to move, communicate and interact with the world and develop a sense of personal and cultural identity. It is a period of positive human development, but is also the period when children are more at risk. As, negative influences on a child’s development during early childhood can be irreversible. Young children who grow up in very difficult circumstances – severe poverty, malnutrition, disease – require particular attention. Every year 1.5 million children die in India because of lack of proper care and protection. There is a need to help, protect and invest in the children in the initial years as this is the most vulnerable time and critical to the adult productivity and the intellectual capital of an entire society. But the situation right now is pretty annoying as India invests the least amount of care and developmental resources to the very young child.

Mobile Creches recognized this need 40 years back when the founder Meera Mahadevan observed neglected children on the construction site and decided to do something about it. Since then MC’s dual focus on the young child and the migrant child living in harsh conditions both at the construction sites and at the urban slums has been the center of its interventions. We strongly believe and advocate that every child has the right to be raised in a family and to have access to quality health care, good nutrition, education, play and protection from harm, abuse and discrimination. They have all the right to grow up in an environment in which they are enabled to reach their full potential in life.

Brain Development

It has been established by neuroscience research that 90% of the child’s brain growth occurs by the time a child is 5 years of age.

The basic architecture of the brain is constructed through a process that begins early in life and continues into adulthood. Simpler circuits come first and more complex brain circuits build on them later. Genes provide the basic blueprint, but experiences influence how or whether genes are expressed. There are several reasons to pay attention to the evidence provided by neuroscience. This help us to learn exactly how experiences affect children and this knowledge can aid our efforts to help children who are at risk and facing the effects of early adversity. Similarly learning about how experiences affect children improve our attempts at interventions.

Birth to five years is the period for most rapid growth and development in human life. By the age of two, 80% of the brain’s neural connections have been made. Between two and four is the “critical period” for development of language, symbolic thought and cognitive processes – a time to support early learning and development through adequate nutrition, basic hygiene, immunization and positive adult – child interactions. From about three years the priority shifts to psychosocial development, when the child goes from playing alone in the mud to playing with a playmate in a doll’s house. Further, getting ready for school and life. To know more on the Architecture of the brain, see this link

Mobile Creches, taking cognizance of these facts have always strived to reach out to children through its day care support in the urban scenario at construction sites and in slums. We have adopted a well thought out nutrition programme to tackle malnutrition. With the focus on under – threes, this programme has a provision of fresh, wholesome food and a balanced mix of nutrients. Children are fed three times a day – milk is provided for the under-threes and fruit, vegetables, egg, cereals and pulses constitute the daily diet, to ensure a minimum of 500 calories for each child as nutrition supplementation. A special diet is given to all children with weights below normal. The under-3 under-weight children are frequently fed and given a high protein Ready-To-Use-Therapeutic-Food (RUTF) made by MC staff at every centre. Identifying and urgently treating malnutrition get top priority in the MC health programme.

School Readiness -

All that we discussed above are vital for success in school, in the community and subsequently in life. Yet, nearly half the world’s children from the marginalized populations are likely to miss out on programmes that can develop these skills in early childhood. Studies have shown that ECD programmes lead to higher levels of primary school enrolment and educational performance but children who start school late and lack the necessary skills to be able to learn are more likely to fall behind, often perpetuating a cycle of poverty.

Mobile Creches strives to improve young children’s capacity to develop and learn. Our approach is promotive in the sense that it takes care of the age appropriate developmental needs of the children across the three sections of Creche (0-2), Balwadi (3-5) and NFE (6+). MC emphasizes early stimulation, culturally appropriate learning and the acquisition of psycho – social skills in children. A specially designed curricula for each age group helps in early learning aiming at holistic development of the child preparing them for timely transition to school.

Today, certainly as a country we are in a position to do better for our children. With booming economy and growing infrastructure we are at a unique juncture to become one of the world’s great powers. Yet, India has the highest number of child deaths in the world, with an estimated 1.2 million deaths in 2015 – 20% of the 5.9 million global deaths. This is not a very good situation and a condition in the largest democracy. So how do we ensure that India’s economic progress translates into social progress for millions of destitute children?

Time to ponder…

#Mynameistoday, the Mobile Creches blog, will attempt to inform, provoke and connect, on issues of critical importance to our present and our future.

Do join us for and be a part of the conversations or to put across your questions on the status of our young children in India; be with us on our Social Media platforms.

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