Early Childhood Development Preschool education in Sri Lanka The demography

“Whoever wins the war, children are always the losers and their lost childhood never comes back”. - Unknown

Irrespective of the status of lives, warfare disturbs the lives of children and youngsters, as well as their families, communities and nations at large. The consequences of such conflicts create various impacts on all genders, given the distinct roles they play during war, peace building, and post-conflict reconstruction. Many post-conflict states are left in a state of fragile peace with no real closure of the issues. However, those conflicts have hardly ever come to real resolutions due to the racial scars they have left in the wounded hearts of the victims.

Sri Lanka is also one of the countries, which experienced the cruelties and dangers of a brutal civil war over a three decades’ time. Thus, the lives of children were extremely affected due to all the tarnish circumstances which the war brought about in the country.

In view of understanding the way how the children are affected, due to the experiences they go through in those contexts of war and post-war conflicts, it is essential to accompany them in both short and long terms so as to identify the real scars and pains they have treasured in the depths of their hearts and minds. They are in a profound necessity of such accompaniments because, what really happens in their early years significantly determines the way they grow and develop and, in turn, their cost or contribution to society. Children and youth have a crucial role to play in building a peace-filled society.

The Early Childhood Development-ECD programme of JRSS reflects on the importance of finding out and listening to the perspectives of children who are the sons and daughters of parents, who are witnesses of the brutalities of conflict and post-conflict situations.

The ECD programme emphasizes the importance of children’s participation in reconciliation based accomplishments from preschool onwards. This is mainly executed by creating a space for girls and boys of different ages with various aptitudes to express their views and experiences, in view of making the responsible people to become aware about the desires these children are blossoming in their little hearts.

In particular, it highlights the contributions of children to peace building efforts such as reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation which bring with them the hope for a more peaceful world.

Thus, providing education to the younger generation is the only way to bring peace, justice and reconciliation in the long run to the affected people as persons, families and communities. However, the people of war- affected communities find difficult to fulfil all the education needs for their children. Their daily basis is always concerned on the survival with regards to their lives and their welfare.

In Sri Lanka, preschool education is not yet incorporated in to the government education system. Therefore, basically the preschools are under the operation and purview of the non-government entities. Even though around 84% of the 17,000 PSCs in Sri Lanka are run and maintained by non-government entities, peace building is not indicated as a main criteria in the education curricula begins with preschool education.

Moreover, children living in the Northern and Eastern provinces have a lower school participation than the national average. Further, the people in the rural villages find it as a challenging task in sending their children to urban preschools due to the financial deficiencies and instabilities of their livelihood.

In this context, JRSS deliberately chose the 120 rural villages, where most of the families are poor, so as to give their children a better education. Moreover, as the peace-building and the social justice are important concepts to be implemented in such communities, we, JRSS took the initiatives in educating those children, who are going to be the next generation of those communities, by giving them the experiences of peace and reconciliation.

The organization’s project area is geographically confined to the North and Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. The people of this area are the victims of the civil war that ended in 2009. Poverty is one of the major problems in the rural villages of the area.

The project is implemented in the following 08 zones.

To lay basic foundation through quality preschool education and increasing early childhood development of the children between the age 3-5, from the resettlement areas of the North and Eastern provinces and strengthening the teachers and staff with training programmes and sustainable activities.

Promotion of physical, emotional and educational well-being and enjoyment of childhood of the preschool children and professionally trained teachers with leadership capacities

Children with needed knowledge and skills to pursue their future studies, and capacitated teachers to accompany the younger generation: a group of people actively involved in income generating efforts. .

By the end of every year, an average of 1200 children receives accredited education at preschools and 190 teachers successfully complete accredited leadership training. Further, ten preschools will actively involve in the sustainable efforts.

The academic year of the project period begins on 3rd January every year. Preschools are conducted from Monday to Friday for 3 hours and follow the government policies for holidays.

We follow the ABL-Activity Based Learning method in all our preschools. It is a methodology where children learn at their own pace through various supervised activities. It is a more engaging and interactive way of teaching children. It allows for monitoring factors such as speech, coordination, social skills, and motor skills, amongst other key factors.

The curriculum is based on the syllabus prepared by the desk of Early Childhood Development of the Education, Cultural, Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry of Northern Provincial Council.

Feeding the children with nutritious food is a part of a preschool education development programme of JRSS. It is a basic service an organization can do for children who belong to a community who are in need. Nutritious food is fundamental factor for the six stages of development such as physical, cognitive, emotional, creative, socialization and understanding the environment.

While providing nutritious food, we make a progress study every year by measuring the height and weight of the children as per the age.

The organization tries to maintain formality in terms of wearing uniforms in all the preschools. We provide them in the month of February.

We have established children saving accounts for 70 deserving children with the help of the well-wisher through LBR Foundation, in view of investing the money for their higher education when they reach 18.

The preschool community celebrates all the festivals in preschools to inculcate respect for all the religions. Children cherish every festival and adorn every culture to their hearts’ content. As one of the child’s first diverse learning environments, preschools shoulder the responsibility of simplifying the legends & lessons of every religion and culture.

These when delivered innovatively through colorful and funny, displays, dramas, crafts, dances, musical activities and in other creative ways they create the ambiance for the children to learn deeply about all the religious beliefs in a deeper manner beyond their mere festivities. Those what they grasp in turn will teach them morals and values such as goodness and empathy that draw line upon the similarities among us all.

Preschool sports activities aren't about competition. They're about giving children a chance to play and learn with others. Learning a sport with other children of his/her age is a great way for him/her to improve in their skills and personalities. Sports events are organized by all the respective preschool communities between the months February to June.

Apart from the preschools activities, we have formed Children’s Forums in rural villages for the age group 6-9 since 2018. Children receive peace education through art therapy: storytelling, drawings, games, singing

The peace education is conducted for four hours per week in the preschool itself. The peace education facilitators organize inter-religious festivals, day of thanksgiving celebration for the current year and welcome ceremony for the new year, school visits to meet the class teachers and headmasters/mistresses of the pre-schools.

Five teachers from each zone who have the potential to become leaders are trained as trainers. They are trained in leadership, community mobilization and human resource management. They follow a 6 days’ workshop per year. In turn, the trained teachers conduct the monthly teachers training to enhance their skills. In addition to this, they conduct full-day sessions for the board of management of each school of their respective zones.

JRSS has a fixed last Saturday of every month to have meeting for the preschool teachers. The ToT will conduct the training while the management staff / professionals are invited to observe and provide their feedbacks. It is a platform for the teachers to update their skills and knowledge while it provides an opportunity to the ToT to exercise what they learned in the ToT programmes.

Apart from this, it is the time, that the teachers come together as a zonal team in a month. They share, analyze their work as a team with the field coordinator. They also write the monthly report according to the given format. The field coordinator facilitates the meeting and helps them to write the report. Any common issues that affect the preschool programme, sustainability etc. are also discussed there. This meeting helps to keep up the unity and mission oriented ambiance to the level best.

The parents-teachers meeting is held roguery every month. Attendance of the children, hygienic issues, nutritious food feeding and shramadana (gift of labour) are discussed in the meeting.

Three members, representing the BoM from 117 preschools participate in the quarterly training programme, conducted by the ToT. This training is to strengthen the BoM so that in cause of time they will play key roles in running the schools moving towards sustainability.

The SF is held separately for Eastern and Northern provinces’ stakeholders per term. The first meeting is to present what the envisaged activities for the project year. The second meeting is to review the mid-term’s progress. The third meeting is to have an impact analysis.

The programme coordinator, finance officer and the director visit all the zones once in 3 months to have direct contact with parents and teachers. Through this visit, the administrative staff gain knowledge of the ground reality of the people, children, and parents. Based on the first hand information, the administrative team will be in a better position to make appropriate decisions and accompany the war community as articulated in the vision and mission of JRSS.

The field coordinators collect the monthly reports from the teachers and make a cumulative report and submit to the Programme Coordinators with their observation and suggestions. The PC compile a report and submit to the Director. The director discuss the major issues arise from the report in the monthly staff meeting and write the progress report and send to the donor through the PC on 5th of every month.

It is said that lack of respect and appreciation leads people to become more vulnerable. Hence, JRSS wants to inculcate a culture of respect and appreciation among the children and those who form them. For this very reason, annual events such as international children’s day, teachers’ day, children graduation days are celebrated.

The preschool teachers fully dedicate themselves to form the children irrespective of their low income, long distance travelling, and fulfilling the demands of the education departments. Acknowledge their selfless service, some other organizations too have come forward to help the children and teachers. One such organization is Swiss

The preschool community has a tradition of celebrating anniversaries of the teachers and the schools. .

We honor all the teachers for their service. .

1. All the second years children are admitted for grade one in government schools
2. Prevalence of underweight is reduced by 5-10%.
3. The 190 teachers have the certificate for their participation in the monthly training programme
4. A network with similar like-minded organizations strengthen
5. Forty teachers are capacitated as trainers of training (ToT)
6. Forty schools will have strong board of management
7. Twelve preschools will be prepared to become independent every year

I. Physical development
II. Cognitive development I-learning the concept of language
III. Cognitive development II-learning the concept of mathematics
IV. Understanding the environment
V. Fine arts development I-drawings and creative crafts making
VI. Fine arts development II-music and acting
VII. Emotional development and socialization
The progress report of each child will indicate the above development

Keeping the Early childhood Development as a main thrust, JRSS addressed eco-concern, women empowerment and sustainable development in the working villages.

When JRSS took over the preschools in 2017, we made a policy decision to make all the preschools self-sustainable in the coming years. This demands forming and strengthening a Board of Management and helping the parents financially viable. In the process of implementing the activities, we realized that it is a long process. However, 40 preschools have been handed over to the parents’ body up to 2020.

We hope to make all the preschools self-sustainable by the end of 2023.