In Jordan as part of a nationwide ‘Better Parenting Project’, UNICEF worked with imams to produce a booklet, ‘Imam’s Guide to Early Childhood Development’, that could help fathers learn parenting skills that promote development in their young children. The booklet includes the ‘Twelve Friday Sermons’, relevant sayings from the Qur’an and quotes from the Prophet, such as “Who does not like a child does not have a heart”. Many sessions are held in mosques, which proved a breakthrough in reaching men.
Recognizing that Muslim children from poor socio-economic backgrounds in East Africa had limited opportunities to access early childhood education, and that much of what was available was provided by Christian educators, the Madrasa Early Childhood Development Programme began in Kenya in 1986, supported by the Aga Khan Foundation. The result has been quality, affordable, culturally appropriate and sustainable education for marginalized Muslim children. The programme was subsequently expanded to Uganda and Zanzibar. Testing has shown that children in the programme perform as well as or better than children in more established programmes. The programme’s success has also led to the enrolment of non-Muslim children.
UNICEF has formed an alliance in Angola with key religious and government actors to enhance knowledge and positive behaviours of families towards the survival, development and protection of children under five. The Alliance includes the 10 most important Churches in the country, the Ministry of Family, an Inter-sector Committee comprised of other ministries (such as Health and Social Welfare) and government institutions such as the National Institute of the Child. Alliance partners will implement an integrated communication and social mobilization plan to disseminate key messages on maternal and child health, hygiene, nutrition, early child development and violence prevention. The goal by 2013 is to train more than 10,000 community and religious leaders using a multimedia kit (booklets, music album and radio mini-dramas) developed through a participatory approach and to reach up to 1 million families in all 18 provinces of the country. During a visit to Angola in 2011, the UNICEF Executive Director participated in the formal signing ceremony creating the Alliance. Evaluations will be undertaken in 2013 to measure the impact of the interventions, especially in relation to changes in knowledge, attitudes and practices.
In 2009 the UNICEF Philippines Education Programme continued to support the piloting of an Islam-responsive early childhood curriculum in 17 pilot pre-schools in conflict-affected areas. Future programming at the sub-national level will help develop models of quality early childhood education services, especially those targeting the most disadvantaged children, with the end view of influencing national policies to bring these innovations to scale. It will also sustain support for the adoption of an Islamic-focused early childhood education curriculum beyond conflict-affected areas.