Muslim community in Rwanda launches its model early childhood development programme

21 February 2019
A three-year-old girl in a pre-primary uniform smiles in an early childhood development centre
UNICEF/UN0284040/Houser

RUBAVU, Rwanda – Children under the age of 6 years are in a critical stage of cognitive, social, emotional and physical development. What happens, or does not happen, during childhood can influence the entire course of that child’s life, for better or for worse. Recognising the importance of love, attentive care in a child’s early years, Rwanda’s Muslim community opened its first model early childhood development (ECD) centre today in the western town of Rubavu.

“It is with great pleasure that the Rwandan Muslim community, especially as members of the Rwanda Interfaith Council on Health (RICH), welcome this madrassa-based ECD centre, which also complies with Islamic teachings,” said Sheikh Salim Hitimana, Mufti of Rwanda and First Vice Chairman of RICH. “We look forward to seeing these ECD services accessible to more children and parents around the country through Muslim facilities and infrastructure.” 

The new ECD centre, hosted within a community mosque, will be open to all young children between 3 and 6 years, regardless of gender or religious affiliation. Two caregivers – one Muslim and one non-Muslim – will spend mornings encouraging the children to learn through play and discovery, following the competency-based pre-primary curriculum approved by Rwanda Education Board. Children will also receive nutrient-rich porridge each morning to help fight malnutrition.

“Chronic malnutrition – stunting – is a silent killer of children, said Dr. Anita Asiimwe, Coordinator of the National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP). “To deal with it, we call upon all partners to invest in these interventions at a very high speed, as we do not have the luxury of time for any Rwandan child.”

Dr. Asiimwe also noted, “We are happy that this ECD centre will be open to all children, regardless of their religious affiliation, and that parents will play a role in the success of ECD in this community.” 

“UNICEF has enjoyed working with RICH and the people of Rubavu to create child-friendly spaces in some of their mosques,” said Ted Maly, UNICEF Representative in Rwanda. “We will continue our support by facilitating education sessions for parents and providing training on responsive caregiving.”

UNICEF also provided this centre with indoor and outdoor play materials, such as educational toys and games for the classroom and playground equipment.

By the end of 2018, 20 per cent of young children aged 3-6 in Rwanda were utilising ECD services, a 7 per cent increase since 2015. ECD is highlighted in the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, which Rwanda has domesticated, and remains a foundational strategy for Rwanda’s Vision 2020 and the National Strategy for Transformation.

Rwanda has clearly demonstrated its commitment to providing every child with access to ECD programmes, so that every girl and boy can achieve their developmental potential and is ready for primary education. 

Media Contacts

Rajat Madhok

Chief of Communication, Advocacy and Partnerships

UNICEF Rwanda

Tel: +250 788 301 419

Anastase Rwabuneza

Communication Specialist

National Early Childhood Development Programme (NECDP)

Tel: +250 788 562 190

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Recognising the importance of loving, attentive care in a child’s early years, Rwanda’s Muslim community has opened its first model early childhood development (ECD) centre in the western town of Rubavu.

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