Agung ECD Centre
Agung Primary School’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) centre was established in 2013 by the local community. The school is easily accessible to children in the surrounding villages, as it is located on a tarmac main road, enabling children to walk to school in every seaso
n without facing the challenges of thick dust or mud. At the school’s entrance, orangey-red bricks have been strategically positioned to create a welcoming pathway to lead students, teachers and visitors into the school.
The nursery centre is currently in a transitional phase; the original centre was recently dismantled, and a new (and bigger) centre is being built in its place to accommodate the large number of nursery students enrolled at the school. Whilst parts of the old nursery building, including the thatched roofing, have been recycled to be used for the new classrooms, the rest of the materials are being donated by the children’s parents, who are also providing the labour to complete the new ECD structure. In the midst of this building work, Agung’s nursery pupils are currently being taught in a newly built secondary school which is not yet open. The two rooms used by the nursery school are big, bright, airy, and clean. However, within these temporary classrooms, the ECD centre lacks all basic furniture including chairs, tables, and cupboards. Instead, children sit on a mat upon the concrete floor in front of the chalkboard during their lessons.
The K1 class, with over 70 pupils, is so large that two teachers – Olivia and Miriam – are needed in the classroom; one teacher conducts the lesson, whilst the other watches over the class and helps individual pupils with their work. The 63 K2 and K3 students study together in one classroom, taught by Dorcas who, as part of African Revival’s Jumpstart! programme, recently attended an ECD training course. Whilst Olivia has not received any formal training prior to this, she has been teaching for many years and is incredibly dedicated to her pupils, which is evident as she energetically sings the school’s motto with the children.
In spite of the minimal materials at their disposition, the centre’s teachers are extremely committed to their students, and have tried to make the temporary classrooms as inviting as possible. The teachers have put up hand-made posters, displayed their pupils’ drawings, and use recycled materials (including empty soda bottles) to use as learning aids during maths lessons. Oliver told us: “I like making displays, making things bright for the children so that when we are marking books, the children are stimulated by what they see around them, and learn massively.”
The children at Agung commence their classes at 8am until 12pm, spending their mornings singing and dancing, before learning arithmetic, reading and writing. At 10.30am, the pupils walk up the path towards the primary school, where they are served a hearty portion of sweet porridge. Indeed, there are good facilities at the school; a water tank to use for cooking, cleaning and drinking as well as latrines for boys and girls.
One of the challenges in this school is that the parents of pre-primary school students frequently neglect to pay their children’s school fees, which means the teachers have not been paid properly for several months, and many children are unable to attend classes until the out-standing bills are paid. However, Dorcas tells us; “I love to teach, some teachers wouldn’t stay because we don’t always get paid, but I want the children to learn so keep coming.” As such, as part of our Jumpstart! project, our education co-coordinator recently conducted a community sensitisation meeting at Agung ECD Centre to highlight parents’ responsibilities towards their children’s education, and sought to motivate the local community to actively engage in their young children’s learning.
Despite the challenges faced by Agung, the school is full of potential to help its nursery students thrive. From 2015, African Revival will be working with the school to provide much needed furniture, learning resources and teacher support offer children the best possible learning experience which will fully equip them to succeed in primary school when the time comes.