|Young Facilitator Wenishe guides a group of children through an educational activity as part of the Child-to-Child Programme.|
By Abhiyan Rana
DIMA GURANDA, Ethiopia, 25 March 2009 – Wenishe, 12, is a grade six student at the Dima School in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. It was there that she volunteered to become one of 30 Young Facilitators for the 'Getting Ready for School: A Child-to-Child Approach' project.
The UNICEF supported Child-to-Child initiative is already operating in six countries, including Ethiopia. The pilot project aims to prepare young children for their first year in primary school by utilizing social alliances between older and younger children – blending learning with playtime.
To that end, Wenishe recently organized a session for five local children, aged 5 to 6, who will soon begin primary school.
Learning through play
The session was held in a shed built by Wenishe's father out of plastic sheets and tree branches. The children sat in a semi-circle as Wenishe began an activity that she learned at a weekly orientation class, using materials from the Child-to-Child initiative.
|Wenishe, her mother Masarat, and her sister, Innat, in front of their home, where Wenishe hosts her sessions.|
The children laughed as they sang a counting song about a mouse, while Wenishe proudly displayed the words on a sheet of paper, guiding the children through the instructional activity.
"I like to help my little brothers and sisters get ready for school," Wenishe explained.
Next on the agenda was a counting game using discarded bottle caps. The children smiled eagerly as they scooped up the correct number of caps. When one young boy struggled with his counting, Wenishe gently put her arms around him and encouraged him to try again. He got it right the second time.
Wenishe's mother, Masarat, smiled proudly while she watched her daughter lead the children through the session.
"I feel that these children are getting the opportunity that I never got," she said.
Peer education showing potential
The Child-to-Child approach is an especially relevant and low-cost alternative to institutional pre-schools in developing countries.
Peer education programmes have shown considerable potential in countries like Ethiopia, where access to pre-schools remains low. The initiative also addresses the problem of over-aged enrolment in Ethiopia's primary schools by ensuring that all children in the programme are enrolled the following year into grade one at the appropriate age.
Peer education has already shown tangible progress in Ethiopia, and UNICEF is committed to continuing its support for such programmes in order to ensure the achievement of worldwide Millennium Development Goals.