AMURT & AMURTEL sent an emergency response team to Padang, Indonesia immediately after the earthquake in West Sumatra on 30 September 2009. After the initial emergency response period, AMURTEL identified a need for Early Childhood Development (ECD). Those children most vulnerable after a disaster of this magnitude need the structure, safety, and support an Early Childhood Program (ECD) can provide. The Indonesian government was unable to include this important sector in its reconstruction budget and plans, so Amurtel chose this as our long term focus . Our project objectives are:
To provide conditions for the optimal development of preschool/kindergarten-age children physically, mentally and socially;
To help upgrade and promote the spread of ECD Centres in West Sumatra by working with Education Department and Association of Preschools (HIMPAUDI) officials; and
To lay the foundation for a better world by nurturing happy and healthy children and offering them a better quality of life, through the ECD Centres
Children for a Better World (ECD Program)
The program is called “Children for a Better World” as the goals include supporting this next generation of young Indonesians as they grow into well-adjusted, confident adults, able to contribute to improving the quality of life for their community, their country and the whole world.
AMURTEL started by establishing three ECD centres with a combined total of 140 students and 12 teachers. We constructed new semi-permanent buildings for each, replacing the previous school buildings which were destroyed in the earthquake. We also provided a hot meal and milk for the each of the children attending the schools. Over the months, we have gradually introduced a healthier diet by increasing proportions of nutrition-rich red rice and decreasing amounts of nutrition-deficient white rice and also reducing the quantities of sugar and salt in the children’s meals.
Part of the ECD program is to work with the children on becoming more conscious of environmental issues. The amount of garbage littering the streets and countryside has become a big problem in the area. We are happy to report the children in our centres are beginning to throw garbage into trash cans instead of simply littering anywhere and everywhere as is the norm in their community. We are also encouraging exercise and movement in the classrooms. The older children are now able to perform a long exercise routine as well as perform many songs with accompanying hand expressions. Arts and crafts provide lots of practice in fine motor skills and lots of creative fun and satisfaction.
Recognizing that input from the teachers and mothers is integral towards the optimal development of the children, AMURTEL has created a 3-pronged approach for the “Better World” program. “Teachers for a Better World” and “Mothers for a Better World” have become foundations stones for the “Children for a Better World” program.
Teachers for a Better World (Teacher Training Program)
From 12 teachers at three schools, we expanded our outreach through the local HIMPAUDI (the Indonesian Association of Preschools) network. Currently we are training 53 teachers from 40 schools.
Since most of the participating teachers were high school graduates with little or no training in early childhood development and with low self-confidence, we began with a one-month module in ECD songs (accompanied by movement and dance, to capture the children’s interest), exercise and arts & craft. The goals were to give the teachers practical skills that could be easily learned and immediately applied in the classroom with tangible results. This approach proved an outstanding success. The teachers were able to transfer what they learned to the children and gained greater self confidence in their role as teachers.
Topics covered in the second module of our teacher training program included Preschool Curriculum, Teaching Strategies, Evaluation Techniques, Education-related Administration, Schedule Planning and Learning Theories. This proved heavy-going for the teachers, but focus on concrete activities to illustrate theory helped them grasp educational concepts and skills and to apply them in the classroom. Our 53 teachers are now familiar with the national preschool/kindergarten curriculum and are gaining confidence in working with the children in a fun and loving way.
Mothers for a Better World (Women’s Program)
This program started with a lecture series on health, nutrition, hygiene, family planning and the importance of Early Childhood Education. At the mothers’ requests, we also organized weekly aerobics sessions which the women thoroughly enjoyed. There was a strong interest amongst the women to learn more about diet and most everyone wanted to lose some weight. This provided a great opening to bring in discussions on nutrition, and the importance of giving the children water instead of sweet drinks and to cut out the empty calorie snacks. AMURTEL distributed heavy-duty garbage cans in our Environmental Awareness program to encourage the mothers to help with the trash problems in their communities. The mothers were also given reusable plastic glasses and water dispensers with 5 litre water containers in an effort to help reduce the use of the insidious disposable plastic bottles that are becoming a very real environmental problem.
At a recent outing, the women carried 5-litre water bottles to the field instead of resorting to disposable plastic bottles . It was especially heartening to see one of the mothers pouring water for her young son from her own giant water bottle into a tumbler we had provided her!
AMURT & AMURTEL Padang is now constructing 15 new ECD buildings and repairing six others. We will be providing them with furniture, playground equipment and educational materials. The mothers, the teachers and especially the children are heartened to see the ECD program expand and flourish.
2010 year end update
AMURT & AMURTEL Padang’s Better World program celebrated a week of festivities recently. The climax came on 15 November 2010 with the inauguration and handover of the 21 early childhood development (ECD) centres built and renovated by AMURT & AMURTEL. This event was jointly held with the graduation ceremony of 56 teachers from 41 ECD centres who had participated in our Teachers for a Better World teacher-training program.
Prior to that, we had three consecutive days of festivities featuring children’s and teachers’ competitions, a children’s parade and a 3-day exhibition of craftwork and educational materials created by teachers and children. About 800 children and 150 teachers participated in the events which were co-organized with the Pariaman Town Council, while hundreds more visited the exhibition and joined in the festivities. Since the inception of our Better World program, AMURT & AMURTEL has worked in cooperation and coordination with the wife of the mayor of Kota Pariaman, various Town Council departments, local authorities at the District of Padang Pariaman, and local chapters of the Association of Playschools. We hope to strengthen these cooperative relationships to further develop and promote early childhood development in West Sumatra.
Earlier in October, a small team of four selected teachers and AMURT & AMURTEL staff visited Malaysia for a 7-day study tour as the final segment of AMURT & AMURTEL’s Teachers-for-a-Better-World teacher-training program. The group visited five kindergartens and also managed to put in some sightseeing as well! The selected kindergartens spanned a range of teaching styles, so the Padang teachers got the chance to gain broad experience. Upon their return home, these teachers shared what they learned with their other colleagues.