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The history of a village that reanimated the kindergarten

© UNICEF Moldova / Guzun / 2009
One of the kindergarten’s playrooms before the work started.

by Aurelia Guzun, Communications Specialist

Ialpujeni is a village situated 76 km away from the capital of the Republic of Moldova, in the Cimislia raion. The village is inhabited by 1860 people, of whom 104 are children between the ages of 0 and 7 years. Ialpujeni has not had a kindergarten for 11 years. On November 20th, 2009, the kindergarten was reopened here.

Ialpujeni – the village where children look through fences

In the early 1990s there were two kindergartens in Ialpujeni. Eleven years ago, in 1998, the pre-schools were closed down. The local administration did not have the funds to pay for heat, electricity, food for the children, and salaries for the staff. The children were sent home to stay with their grandparents. In the families that did not have grandparents, mothers left their jobs to take care of their children. The buildings soon began to deteriorate, and within ten years they were unrecognizable; the doors were stolen, the windows rotted, the roof leaked, and the plaster crumbled.

Where in former times children’s voices were heard, now the only sound is wind whistling amid the desolate walls. The children were taken care of in their families; they were nourished and dressed, but they did not receive the early education they needed. The caregivers had neither the skills, nor the resources needed for this. Moldova, a post-soviet country, did not have the tradition of “parents’ school”.

The education of children was declared the state’s responsibility, with the school as the institution where the citizen was formed. No books addressed to parents and caregivers were published, no training courses for young parents were organized. The families from Ialpujeni village, as other tens of thousands of Moldovan families, suddenly found themselves responsible for the early education of their children, but lacked the necessary training. Toys, books, and other educational materials were either nonexistent or were prohibitively expensive.

© UNICEF Moldova / Guzun / 2009
In accordance with new child-centered methodologies, children learn by playing.

The children also needed socialization. Closed in their yards they could only look at each other through fences. Their mothers, consumed with housekeeping and other chores, had no time to spend time with their children. There was no community centre with programs for parents and children in the village. A refurbished kindergarten was the Mayor’s dream Vitalie Burduh, the current Mayor of Ialpujeni commune, is the father of grown children. Since becoming the mayor, his dream, was to refurbish the preschool institution.

“I remember how difficult it was to raise children at home. We ran around like madmen to keep up with the activities both at home and at work." But how could one re-establish in one year what has been destroyed for 11 years? The local authorities didn’t have any money and due to a lack of jobs, most of the villagers had left for abroad to work. The answer came from the Education for All - Fast Track Initiative, a worldwide initiative that supports revitalizing early education in the Republic of Moldova. The project promotes policy changes at the institutional and community levels and is implemented by the Ministry of Education, with the support of UNICEF and the World Bank.

“The refurbishment of the kindergarten is the first project for the rehabilitation of some places with social purpose, carried out by the inhabitants of our village," Vitalie Burduh says. “Now we know how to do it and we won’t stop here: we’ll repair the school and then we’ll create a community centre for young parents.” The change at the level of the educational system follows “The kindergarten was repaired quite quickly, in half a year”, the manager of the kindergarten Ina Turcanu says. “Now it is our teachers turn to learn how to work according to the new curricula and the new child-centered educational approaches.”

The Republic of Moldova had the tradition of teacher-centered preschool education. The educational process took place unilaterally, in one direction: from the teacher to the child. Over the past 4 years, the Ministry of Education has initiated a process of changing the educational policies in the area of early education, shifting the emphasis from the teacher to the child. “The child-centered education underpins the new Curricula for Early Education and other documents, such as Learning and Development Standards for Children aged between zero and seven years and the Professional Standards for the Teaching Staff.

These publications were developed with the support of UNICEF and the WB as part of the Education for All - Fast Track Initiative in the Republic of Moldova,” says Leonid Bujor, the Minister of Education. “It is not easy for teachers who’ve worked for years in the “old fashion”, to approach the child-centered education, but we all make efforts. The Ministry of Education organizes on a periodical basis, training courses for teachers and methodologists and provides us with didactic materials of much help for us,” says Ina Turcanu, the headmistress of the newly refurbished kindergarten of Ialpujeni.

Now children gladly attend the refurbished kindergartens of the Republic of Moldova. Vladut from Ialpujeni is 6 years old and, until now, has never seen a kindergarten. “I like to play with the new toys. I like it when we stay on the carpet and the teacher reads us books with pictures. But most of all I like the playground with the slide!” Over the past four years in the Republic of Moldova, with the help of the EFA/FTI Project, 66 preschool institutions were refurbished, and 507 kindergartens were partially provided with equipment. At the same time, 230 more settlements do not have any kindergartens. The children from these villages are still locked in their homes, waiting for somebody to take them to kindergarten.

 

 
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