New eLearning Courses on Early Childhood Development for Vulnerable Populations
Save the Children and CARE, in collaboration with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs’ Knowledge for Health (K4Health) Project, launched a six module eLearning certificate program on Early Childhood Development (ECD) for vulnerable populations on USAID’s Global Health eLearning (GHeL) Center. The eLearning modules are a complement to the Essential Package, launched in January 2012. The eLearning modules, launched at a three-day event on 10-12 September 2013 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, provide useful information on ECD for vulnerable populations including children living with HIV and AIDS or with a disability, monitoring and evaluation, and policy. The eLearning launch brought together over 60 participants from 10 African countries – Tanzania (including representatives from Zanzibar), Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, and South Africa – who completed the eLearning modules while taking part in discussions that fostered knowledge sharing across countries to enhance programming focused on young vulnerable children and their caregivers. The launch event was funded by USAID as part of the PEPFAR eLearning Initiative (PDF), which is implemented by the K4Health Project in collaboration with USAID, the Office of U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention along with a multitude of other implementing partners.
The tone of the launch was set by the opening remarks of Greg Ramm, Associate Vice President for Child Protection and HIV and AIDS at Save the Children, and Elizabeth Lema, USAID Tanzania’s Community Care Lead. Mr. Ramm provided an inspirational call to action for the care and protection of Africa’s most vulnerable families, while Ms. Lema gave an impassioned statement on the importance of ECD for vulnerable children and the value of such programs for the caregivers of these children.
Ms. Lema was followed by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Community Development, Gender, and Children, Anna Maembe, who delivered a strong keynote address stressing the importance of 1) increasing access to and equity in ECD service provisions, 2) establishing coherent governance structures for ECD, and 3) mobilizing, planning, and allocating the necessary resources to ensure quality services for all children from birth to eight years of age. Ms. Maembe expressed support for the use of the Essential Package to ensure that children in Tanzania and the world at large are protected and nurtured to reach their full developmental potential.
The event was concluded by the Assistant Commissioner for Social Welfare in Tanzania, Jean Ndyetabura, best known as Mama Jean, joining us during her vacation to take part in the launch, noting that she believed the online learning methodology will enable the information on young vulnerable children to “spread like wildflowers.” Having completed two of the six modules, Mama Jean vowed to earn her certificate within days of leaving the event. She acknowledged the comprehensive nature of the courses, indicating that she would continue to share the course knowledge with her colleagues and to ensure that the courses are an integral part of her of efforts to enhance her staff’s capacity.
The Essential Package (EP) is a comprehensive and integrated framework to support the developmental, health, nutrition, protection and livelihood needs of young children and their caregivers living in extremely difficult circumstances. Targeted to policy makers, program managers and service providers, the tools that accompany the EP allow for programs to support the developmental needs of young children who are affected or infected by HIV/AIDS or vulnerable for other reasons (e.g., extreme poverty, disability, in areas of conflict), and who are at risk of never achieving their in developmental potential. The EP is grounded evidence and relies heavily on the literature of children and caregivers impacted by HIV and AIDS.
As the EP community continues to grow, with champions throughout Africa, face-to-face trainings are not always possible. Therefore, the eLearning modules are critical to increasing the reach of important guidance for establishing integrated ECD programs in these at risk populations. Housed on the GHeL platform, the courses can be downloaded as a PDF onto cellphones and other mobile devices for easy access and offline learning.
We continue to discuss with different institutes across Africa ways to institutionalize the courses in universities and professional associations. It is imperative that we promote and strengthen partnerships and collaboration among all stakeholders – to find every opportunity to incorporate ECD into vulnerable children programs so that we can ensure that every child has a strong beginning!