Author: Ketwaru-Nurmohamed, S.
The Child Minders' Initiative was an idea of tribal communities living in the hinterland of Suriname. It is an innovative project initiated by the Ministry of Local Development (MINRO), in close collaboration with UNICEF and the villages. The first Child Minders were trained in 1997 in the village of Gunsi in the Sipaliwini District. In 1998, the project was expanded to 6 other villages in the Marowijne District: Oviaolo, Krabuolo, Petondro, Bernarddorp, Alfonsdorp and Mungotapu. The village of Galibi received only a playground because it already had a pre-school. CMI is one the development strategies of the Amazon Programme, known in Suriname as Suriname Integrated Area Based Programme (SIABP).
Purpose / Objective
The main purpose of the assessment is to determine the impact of the training received by Child Minders on their performance and on the performance of children at school and at home. The assessment focused on: - the status of affairs and functioning of the pre-school facilities
- the percentage of children between 3 and 6 years, per village, that benefit from the activities
and the performance of the Child Minders
- the performance of children at school and at home
- the impact on utilisation of labour-saving devices (cassava mills) in 2 villages in particular, as income generation for payment of child minders
- the challenges encountered and ways they were dealt with
The methodology consisted of the following steps: review of the proposal and project reports; orientation visit to the villages in Marowijne where the project was implemented; preparatory meeting with the inter-sectoral District Team; structured individual and group interviews with Child Minders, parents and members of the Village Council through a standardized questionnaire; focus group interview with Child Minders of different villages; interviews with the project coordinator (implementer) and persons working at policy level of the Ministry of Education; and personal observations.
Key Findings and Conclusions
The results of the project in Gunsi and the little successes gained in Marowijne indicate that the Child Minders' Initiative has the potential for sustainable development of children and local communities involved. The two main causes that led to halting the activities in the villages were the absence of (a) a suitable preschool building, and (b) a regular supply of school material.
After a short functioning of approximately 3 to 9 months, the activities ceased in all involved villages of Marowijne. In three villages, the preschool had not or hardly functioned. The project could have achieved better results if the project was continued and more attention was given to the school facilities and the provision of school material.
The facility in Gunsi also shut down for a short while but, after 1998, it functioned without disruption. According to the childminders, positive changes in the attitude of children were visible in the two villages of Krabuolo and Oviaolo, where the activities lasted for a longer time. This proves the viability and potential impact of CMI. Gunsi would have been a success model if MINRO had supported the local community with the construction of a facility and the provision of water and sanitation, and school material.
The project disruption caused a negative impression among the child minders and the villagers. The interviewed villagers reproached MINRO and UNICEF for the discontinuation of activities due to the lack of school material and a suitable building. From the information received, it appeared that MINRO and UNICEF had taken insufficient precautions for the long-term continuation of the preschool activities.
It was virtually impossible to measure the performance of the child minders in the villages because all, but the one from Gunsi, stopped functioning shortly after they had started. The child minders could not remember all the details anymore and there was no documentation available, for example, registration lists of the children.
Except for a few shortcomings in the implementation of the project and continued guidance of the child minders, there are several indications that the project had a positive impact on the development of the children. To measure this impact, the interviewees were asked to indicate the changes they had observed in the behaviour and performance of the children. The results were surprising, for example:
- Two child minders from Gunsi and Krabuolo indicated to have heard from the teacher of the 1st grade of primary school that a noticeable change had been visible in the behaviour of the children who had visited the preschool facility. The children were less shy, more disciplined and they participated more actively in the classroom.
- The children had learned different words in their local language and in Dutch. Many were still shy to speak Dutch.
- Parents and minders in Gunsi, Oviaolo and Krabuolo observed that the children played (games) with each other more often, they sang songs and had become more attached to each other.
- Parents in Gunsi could better communicate with their children and had a useful subject (the school) to talk about at home.
- It was striking that virtually 100% of the children aged 3 to 6 years participated in the activities in the villages.
It was obvious that differences existed in the performance of the child minders. These differences could be rooted in one or more of the following 4 causes: difference in expectations, unequal education, unequal interest, and unequal reward.
The village community from Gunsi was highly satisfied with the performances delivered by the successive child minders. The present minder is highly motivated and shows initiative by undertaking all sorts of activities with the children, such as studying the environment, growing flowers on the school yard, etcetera. Every morning, she starts on time and, also, the children have learned to be prompt for the starting time. The preschool facility receives material from Paramaribo and, sometimes, from neighbouring schools.
In the other villages, most child minders had given up hope to teach. They were disappointed by, as they said, the fact that MINRO and UNICEF had not kept their promises, which had led to the disruption of the activities. After the interview, most of them regained some of their trust. The majority indicated to be ready to restart without payment, but do expect a small compensation from the Government. In their opinion, the villagers should not be asked to pay for the education of their child since education in Suriname is free of charge, which is also the opinion of parents and village authorities.
A distinction has been made between conditions and recommendations in the proposed measures for the improvement of CMI. The conditions indicate the required measures to be undertaken, while the recommendations are more advisory.
- Concentrate only on the villages where children have no access at all to preschool education
- Optimally utilise the potential of the local human and natural resources for the design and implementation of CMI
- Introduce training for day care workers, given the need for this type of service and for diversification of income sources among young women
- Introduce a shift system to reduce the workload of the child minders and/or a system to secure their compensation
- Guarantee the regular provision of school material
- Extend the duration of the project from 4 months to 18 months (covering the 2-year school programme developed by Kenki Skoro) to include ongoing guidance, supervision and upgrading of the child minders, as well to consolidate the results gained
- At any cost, provide all preschool facilities with adequate water and sanitation, which is a basic requirement
- Extend the training programme with upgrading training, which is implemented within the lifetime of the project
- If possible, introduce additional selection criteria, including the selection of candidates with a higher education (than the 6th grade) and pay more attention to the selection of interested male candidates
- Develop a training for trainers for graduated Kindergarten teachers, preferably from the local region, in order to build and utilise their capacity as trainers and supervisors
- Utilise the creativity and inventiveness of the villagers for the design and construction of the preschool facility and playground
- Promote: in-kind contribution of the villagers for the delivery of the preschool, playground and school furniture by assisting them with the necessary tools and material (saws, nails, etc.), a limited compensation for their labour, and the drafting of a management plan for maintenance
- Install a village committee for the management and maintenance of the facility (consisting of representatives of the village council, the child minders and parents)
- Train key people (men and women) in organisational skills, (financial) administration, and maintenance and repair (of the cassava grinder)
PDF files require Acrobat Reader.
ECD - Center Based Care
Ministry of Education