Early Childhood Development
Offering an effective Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme enables children to grow and develop to their full potential. The children are given the opportunity to learn fundamental literacy and numeracy skills through play and song in a clean and safe environment as well as provided with two healthy meals daily.
Education is the most important step towards creating a sustainable future, which is why we integrate conservation education into both our ECD and Youth programmes. We aim to foster a sense of environmental responsibility by encouraging youngsters to be mindful of the environment from an early age and by instilling a passion for conserving natural areas. The main value is that, ultimately, the whole community benefits through this integrated approach.
Video by Raphaël de Laage de Meux & Melina Demars
Where We Operate
Our focus areas are Odzala-Kokoua and Nouabalé-Ndoki national parks in the remote north-western regions of the Republic of Congo. The former, established in 1935 and one of Africa's oldest national parks, consists of approximately 13 500 square km of forests, rivers, marshes, swamps, and savanna plains. Nouabalé-Ndoki was established in 1993 and covers an area of 3 922 square km of swampy, tropical rainforest.
Both parks lie in the heart of the Congo Basin, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, which accounts for 18% of the world’s remaining rainforest and has a significant impact on our global climate and the existence of all life.
Our flagship community centre, Sanza Mobimba, in the village of Mbomo on the periphery of Odzala-Kokoua National Park, was founded in 2013.
A new community centre is under construction at Bomassa in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park and it should be operational mid-2020.
Based on the success of the Sanza Mobimba centre, five satellite community centres have been established in villages bordering Odzala-Kokoua National Park. Children in these very remote villages would have no access to education if it were not for our centres.
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Two mobile classrooms were established to reach the Pygmy communities. Once a week, our teachers go to the Pygmy villages to teach the children through outdoor play, teaching fundamentals such as counting, colour recognition, manual skills, and basic hygiene. The children also receive a healthy meal and learn basic routines.
How We Work
The SPAC ECD programme was launched in 2013, offering children the opportunity to learn fundamentals in a fun way in clean and safe surroundings.
The ECD programme, which is used at all the community centres as well as in the mobile classrooms, includes emotional, cognitive, sensory, physical, social, and communication development from three years old to school-going age.
These early years are a crucial stage of development and recognized as the ideal time to inculcate important values. The focus of the programme is to engage the children in interactive, age-appropriate activities, hands-on learning, and collaborative play. The children acquire concepts, skills, and attitudes that lay the foundation for lifelong learning and as the children learn, the parents learn. Children who are exposed to a rich vocabulary through reading, story-telling, and social interaction are more eager to learn.
Furthermore, at Sanza Mobimba, a Youth Programme is run in the afternoons for children from the local primary school. The programme concentrates on reading, storytelling, and discussions and the teacher may typically give a short lesson on conservation, hygiene, and health. Mentorship is provided to assist the children with French and Mathematics.
Both our ECD and Youth programmes are aligned with the cultural identity and everyday reality of the children from these remote regions of the Congo.
Photos by Melina Demars
More than 300 children between the ages of three and six participate in ECD activities at the centres and about 45 children participate in the Youth Programme at Sanza Mobimba.
The centres are staffed by 24 Congolese employees and a Congolese administrator in Brazzaville. Three expatriates are involved in the project.
Photo by Melina Demars