• Human Development

UNICEF and the Government of Djibouti visit Rwanda on a study tour to learn from Rwanda’s success in early childhood development initiatives

On 1 November 2017, a seven-person delegation arrived from Djibouti as part of an important south-south cooperation initiative. The Djiboutian delegation spent several days learning from Rwanda’s success in implementing early childhood development initiatives. The delegation consisted of six officials from the Government of Djibouti and one colleague from UNICEF Djibouti.

During their visit, the delegation spent time with the early childhood development programme section at UNICEF Rwanda and ECD experts from Imbuto Foundation to learn about the context of ECD in Rwanda, including the Government’s commitment to including ECD in national policies and development agendas.

Djibouti has a population of 1.02 million, with nearly 40 per cent under 18 years old. Pre-primary education is not mandatory and Djiboutians outside of the wealthiest populations have difficulty accessing it; this shows a strong need for ECD interventions and an opportunity to learn from Rwanda’s success in this area.

On the first day of their visit, the Djiboutian delegation was joined by Dr. Anita Asiimwe, National ECD Coordinator, for a briefing. Dr. Asiimwe noted that the Government of Rwanda sees their people as the primary treasure of the country. “Rwanda does not have gold or petrol,” she noted, “but believes in its people.”

Dr. Asiimwe noted further that Imbuto Foundation has led the way in the development of the ECD programme, made possible by the support and partnership of UNICEF.

UNICEF Rwanda and Imbuto Foundation accompanied the Djiboutians to Ngoma District ECD Centre. Built in 2014, this centre has since been converted to a “Centre of Excellence” based on its successful operation and full handover to the local government in early 2017. During the visit, the delegation witnessed play-based learning activities for children aged 0-6 years, a cooking demonstration for mothers in the community, and a session with community savings and loans groups. Cooking demonstrations help improve the nutrition status of children around the centre, and savings and loans groups provide parents with basic financial literacy skills to improve their economic status.

Representatives from the Government of Djibouti highlighted the success of integrated services. Before visiting Ngoma District ECD Centre, the delegation had doubts about how one package of services – education, health, nutrition and protection – could be delivered to the same group of children. However, after their visit, they noted the special commitment of parents and communities which led to successful integration of services. This commitment stems from a wealth of information provided to parents which shows how a combination of protection, early stimulation, good nutrition, health and sanitation can allow a child to survive and thrive.

The delegation also visited Kanyinya Child Friendly School in Nyarugenge District to learn from a pre-primary school that has been fully integrated into a 12-year basic education school. During this visit, the delegation observed play-based learning activities in three pre-primary classrooms, and discussed pre-primary education with the school’s head teacher.

During a debriefing session at the UNICEF offices, the Djiboutian delegation reiterated their admiration of the dedication seen by parents, families and communities. They noted that the ownership seen by parents in ECD programmes is a special accomplishment, and that they would therefor begin implementation of ECD in Djibouti with community mobilisation and sensitisation initiatives. The delegation also noted the strong support from the Government in partnering with local communities to support ECD services, as it strengthens communities’ resolve to sustain the interventions. The Djibouti delegation took special note of the roll-out of pre-primary education in primary schools and of Rwanda’s support to trained pre-primary teachers using an approved curriculum.

Representatives from the Government of Djibouti also highlighted the need for an ECD baseline study in Djibouti, which they believe will provide important data for tracking progress and emphasising the importance and legitimacy of ECD programmes for communities and local government in Djibouti.

Concluding their visit, Mohamed Abdi Guedi, Technical Advisor for the Ministry of Women and Family in Djibouti, thanked UNICEF Rwanda for sharing a productive experience. “We learnt a lot about integrated child care from our beautiful brother country of Rwanda,” he said. “We are already planning to implement Rwanda’s successful model for our children in Djibouti.”