I’ve now been away for five days, and haven’t seen Toddler since I put him to bed six days ago. Spouse and I have been talking via Skype, so we have been in regular contact, but Toddler is a rocket and he only whizzes past the screen occasionally. He has been a blur, chirping “mama, out” and trying to boop the digital version of my nose before taking off again. I miss him.
As if to give me my toddler fix, today the World Vision team took me to see CDIC el Caulotte, a community development program that serves as a kind of preschool/kindergarten for kids aged 2 to 6 years.
Lessons take place inside a small building; 31 kids sit at round tables and learn their letters, numbers and colours. They also learn motor skills – using scissors, drawing, painting. I could tell that they were on their best behaviour for visitors, but there is no controlling the kind of happy chaos that flows through small children – at least, not for long.
Soon the little ones were bouncing around and out the door; we wandered out to a patio in the back with play equipment and easy access to the surrounding yard. We met some of the kids’ moms; mothers are very involved in the program, which also includes lessons on nutrition and well-being. In “nutrition circles,” moms are taught by other moms how to cook food for optimal nutrition using seasonal, affordable ingredients from the area.
The effects of malnutrition or inadequate nutrition hinder children in a number of ways; it stunts their growth, leaves them vulnerable to disease, and makes it harder for them to focus and participate in school. The program at CDIC el Caulotte prepares children to succeed in their education by teaching them the skills they’ll need at school and by helping them understand what foods are good for them and why.
The mothers said that they have noticed a significant difference in how the kids who have been through the preschool program perform at school later on; their chances for success are higher, because CDIC el Caulotte lays a strong foundation for them. It’s a head start.
Before we left, the kids were corralled back on the patio and asked to sing a song. The older kids sang the words and made the accompanying motions with their hands, and the little ones did anything but. It was reassuring to see that regardless of their conditions and environment, toddlers are basically all exactly the same.