Early learning through sport and play in India
After successfully implementing the Move 4 New Horizons (M4NH) project in Nepal, rewarded in 2011 by the “UNICEF Sport for Education Award”, the Swiss Academy for Development (SAD) is conducting a similar programme with 50 early childhood education centres in India.
Despite the efforts of the Indian government, big disparities remain in terms of access to quality health and education services. Uttar Pradesh is the state with the lowest school attendance rates in India (73% compared to an average of 82% for the whole country), according to a survey led by UNICEF in 2014. Primary school drop-out rates are still very high (12% according to the 2013 Uttar Pradesh Education Status report, or double the national average). Children living in the most remote rural villages or from the lowest castes and socioeconomic backgrounds are most affected, because they lack certain skills needed to be ready for school and run the risk of falling behind.
It is therefore crucial to foster the children’s physical, cognitive, social and emotional development in their first years of life, when their brain is most receptive; otherwise, they might suffer irreversible delays in their development.
The Move & Improve project aims to tackle this issue by providing a warm and resourceful environment where over 2,000 disadvantaged children have a chance to flourish, grow up and develop; thereby increasing their chances of completing their elementary education and giving them a better start in life. It was launched in 2015 in the Mirzapur district, Uttar Pradesh, in partnership with the local grassroots organisation CREDA (Centre for Rural Education and Development Action).
The project focuses on the most vulnerable children: 55% have illiterate parents and 98% of their families belong to the lowest and most marginalised castes. So far, the results are promising. Only 1% of the children have dropped out of the programme and 125 are already enrolled in their first year of formal education.
The programme contributes to healthy child development through a holistic child-centred education curriculum, providing learning opportunities involving physical activities, interactive play and fun games for children aged 3 to 6. It also aims to comprehensively train and support local teachers and provides a practical teaching manual for the inclusion of sport and play-based methods in their everyday teaching and classroom activities.
Parental education involves families, discussing issues of child well-being, good nutrition and hygiene. Parents also contribute to the education centres by producing learning materials, made from recycled material. The community’s involvement allows for the project to be sustainable with long-term effects.
By improving the marginalised children’s learning outcomes and building a solid basis for their future educational and employment prospects, SAD helps to break the cycle of poverty which is perpetuated from one generation to the next.