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The early years of life are critical for a child’s growth and development. Kids who are well nurtured, instructed and cared for during their earliest years in a family and social environment are more likely to grow physically and mentally healthy, develop language, thinking, social and emotional skills and achieve their full potential when they become adults.
The above statement is the premise behind the establishment of Red Rocks Initiatives Kindergarten in 2018 at Nyakinama Village, Musanze district, where 150 groups of children between the age of three and five years are now enrolled to receive early childhood education. Most of the children come from vulnerable families in this tourism-rich district.
The children are provided holistic education; we initiated this program to provide the best care for these young kids from poor rural families who otherwise would not have had access to early intervention in education at this young age due to their family backgrounds. It’s our efforts to integrate tourism, conservation and community development around the Volcanoes National Parks since many of the parents actively involved in income generating activities like making of traditional handicrafts that they sell to tourists to uplift their living standards. We realized that apart from helping their parents to market their skills and products, and initiating programs to help them support their families, the children also needed an early good start in life and this is how the idea of the kindergarten was born.
Children are taught for free and their breakfast and lunch are also catered for. With the support of donors and well-wishers, we are able to purchase scholastic materials that they need so that they can have the best education possible at an early age. The children are mostly taught by volunteers.
We teach the children positive values and Rwandan culture so that they can be agents to push forward the country’s rich cultural heritage, and we involve them in Bible studies to instill discipline at an early age.
A 2015 study by Save the Children indicated below par government spending at a pre-primary level as funding to the education sector shrunk from 21 percent of the budget in 2006 to 12.3 percent in fiscal 2015.
The study found the share of the national budget to the pre-primary level low, affecting the poorest children whose families cannot afford the few and expensive private nursery schools largely owned by faith-based organizations, individuals and parents’ associations.
Another study showed that in Rwanda, just over 12 % of children between the ages of 3-6 have access to any type of early learning and development services, and these tend to be in urban areas and too costly for poorer parents.
The objectives of the kindergarten are to eliminate poverty, eliminate malnutrition and improve access to quality education for children coming from poor rural families around the national parks in Musanze.
Meanwhile, Red Rocks Initiatives have also established a mini-library to improve reading culture among rural communities. The mini-library is located at Red Rocks Cultural Center in Nyakinama village. The mini library is about providing a learning space, particularly for the youth and children thus making them creative, informed, knowledgeable. We rely on and welcome donations of partners and other well-wishers to successfully run the two programs.
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