The ECS Play School Initiative
To address the issue of early development among children, ECS, with support from HCL Foundation, initiated the playschool program in 9 villages across Tuensang, Longleng, and Mon.
It was implemented as a pilot in partnership with the Church and the community and the main idea is to prepare children before their entry into formal school. The schools adopt the Montessori method of education which is centered on self-directed activity, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. Classes are conducted twice a week by a trainer and an assistant, both interviewed and selected by the community and trained by ECS. The trainers are also provided a week-long training every two months by trainers from Footprint Montessori based in Guwahati.
The Church provides the space for the school, Provides financial support for the supplementary nutrition served to the children, and mothers, and has contributed 30 thousand each to the 9 playschools towards procurement of learning aids, materials, and equipment for the school. Each school has a playroom and a classroom complete with a set of learning materials such as textbooks, slates, rockers, slides, TV set for rhymes, and whiteboards.
The parents are integral to this design. Mothers accompany their children to school and actively participate and assist children in their learning process. Besides, the mothers help in the preparation of meals served at the school.
Activities are centered on the all-around development of the child and are delivered in a play-way method. For instance, they are made to play with playdough, string buttons, and blocks, and activities like rolling and jumping, hopping & rhymes for motor skill development. For colour and shape recognition, blocks and toys are assembled and arranged. For social development, different people are invited to interact with the children. Language is introduced through four patterns; Slanting, Standing, Sleeping and Curve and arithmetic through hands-on materials like number rods, sandpaper numbers, number boards, spindle boxes, number tiles, beads, and games.
The program is building confidence in not only the children but the mothers as well. Initially, most mothers were timid, shy, and would cover their faces with their shawls. This has gradually changed as they've begun opening up and getting involved in the activities.
The most important outcome of the playschool pilot project is the state government stepping in to support the schools. The government through the Department of Social Welfare, Nagaland has decided to scale up the playschool in 110 villages in Tuensang, Mon, Kiphire, and Longleng districts and an MoU has been signed between ECS and the state government in this regard.
After the initiation of the 110 playschools, 340 schools were provided with playing tools and equipment.