Never have I thought

8 out of 10 children in Armenia’s villages miss out on preschool education. Lack of early childhood learning facilities in country pushes women out of labour force or makes them reduce the hours spent on paid work

by Zhanna Ulikhanyan
a girl and a boy in front of new opened preschool.
UNICEF Armenia/2017/Qalashyan
12 April 2018

“I have never thought that I can do important things other than housekeeping. It is like a dream that it couldn’t come true with two little children at home”,- said Heghine a Caregiver in the preschool education center established by UNICEF in Marts village for 16 children. It is a new cost-effective model of early childhood education services and it is called to ensure that every child in the community has a fair start in life.

8 out of 10 children living in Armenian villages missing the preschool education because of lack of these centres. Lack of the ECD facilities in country pushes women out of labour force or make them to reduce hours spent on paid work. This is especially true about women who have children for the countries where labour market, institutional or cultural factors reinforce their caregiving and domestic roles in households. While early childhood learning is the most cutting-edge part of the education system. It is to develop cognitive, physical and social skills for children aged 3-6 years.

This model is established for hard-to-reach small rural communities with few children and short of finances to have a kindergarten. Model is based on International studies that state the duration (in terms of years) of preschool is much more important for the future of child than the time (in terms of hours) a child spends in it.

Heghine in UN conference room telling how her life was changed after working in new established alternative kindergarten as a caregiver.
UNICEF Armenia/2016/ZU

“I would never have imagined that I could do important things besides housekeeping. It is like a dream that I felt could never come true with two little children at home.” 

Heghine

We spoke to Heghine for a long time and she often repeated that the children coming to the kindergarten differed from the ones who did not. She shared a personal story. “We didn’t have a kindergarten before and I was very upset that my elder daughter Lilit, who is now six, could not attend and had to enrol directly in school. But now my 4-year-old Liana is already coming to this kindergarten. They are very different from each other from the point of view of self-sufficiency, behaviour and socialisation skills.”

International studies have shown that quality interventions during early childhood development are small investments that later lead to major benefits for the child, his or her family, society and the economy overall. Imagine the education system as a ladder. Removing preschool education means withdrawing the first couple of rungs in the ladder and expecting the child to climb up to the third rung at once.

With the support of UNICEF, around 140 children aged 3–6 in 12 communities of the Syunik and Lori regions will now start their journey of education from the very first rung. The model does not just ensure that children receive the opportunity for development and learning, it also provides jobs to the communities and has a positive impact on their social life.

We cannot end the story without sharing Heghine’s enthusiasm. During our conversation, she was half-embarrassed and half-proud when she mentioned that, although a teacher’s work is difficult and comes with a high level of responsibility, this is her opportunity to also focus on herself and her personal needs outside of her everyday role at home with her children.

Such services, especially in small communities, create new opportunities for women to enter the labour market, become active players in the economy and, considering the new pension system, help them ensure a better future for themselves.