Vol. 5 Num 558 Wed. December 21, 2005  

Kajoli Early Childhood Learning Model
An effective way to teach poorest children

The method is innovative, low-cost, participatory and pro-poor. The Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB) has evolved it, aiming to bring the children of ultra-poor families across the country to one-year pre-school programme where they play, have fun, learn to read and write, and learn manners and about cleanliness.

The method is titled 'Kajoli Early Childhood Learning Model' that the RIB identified as an effective way to teach the poorest children after a one-year research and practice for another one year in 2003.

Prof Bashir Ahmed of Langalbandh Degree College conducted the research with the support of the RIB at village Kajoli in Sreepur Upazila, Magura and developed the model, which was put into practice in different parts of the country through establishment of Early Childhood Learning Centres.

Renowned educationists, organisers, teachers and the ambassador of the Netherlands lauded the model at a Children's Fair held on the RIB office premises in the city yesterday. About 100 children of the learning centres, their teachers and organisers gathered at the fair and demonstrated how the method works.

Under the model, each learning centre will have 26 five-year-old children, a teacher, a black board, a pocket board, pocket cards with pictures and letters, chalks and toys. The centre can be set up at any house -- in the living room or on veranda -- or in the rooms or huts made by the community people or unused space at local public buildings.

The Kajoli model is totally different from the traditional system of memorising letters and learning to read and write. The teachers of the centres first show the children pictures of different objects and animals with their names in Bangla on them and then check if the children can identify those later. The teachers never treat them with harshness. Rather, they develop a warm relation with the children and tell them stories.

"As a result, the children become very fond of their teachers. They also complain to the teachers if they are maltreated by others, even by their parents," said Josna Ara, an organiser of a centre in Satkhira.

People like Josna who first take the initiatives of setting up of such schools are called 'champions'. They promote the importance of the centres to the local community and mobilises support, which is the key to the success of the centres.

Sharing her experiences, Josna said that the men in her area do not work very much, rather the women of the poor families work outside. As a result, their children remain uncared for.

"When I first informed the local people of the Kajoli model, they did not accept the idea. But when I started the school with some children, they were happy. Other mothers also came forward with the proposals of including their children in the programme.


Ismat Jahan Lipi, a teacher of a centre at Abhaoa office in Barisal, said the children first learn how to read and write and at the end of the one-year programme they can tell and identify the letters and numbers.

As per the rules, the teacher should be a female and have the ability to read, write and count. They have to spend at least four hours with the children at the centre. The local community in consultation among themselves will collect a minimum of Tk 500 to pay the teacher as her monthly salary, explained RIB Chairman Shamsul Bari at the inaugural session of the Children's Fair.

Mothers of the children who usually suffer from malnourishment cook 'khichuri' (a popular and nutritious Bangla dish with rice, pulse and vegetable) once a month in turn and feed all the children.

"The involvement of mothers ensures that the mothers develop deep bonds with not only their own children but also other children. Through the social interactions, they lean to care for and bear the burden of others, which is a great human quality," Shamsul Bari said.

There are more than 100 such centres across the country and about 3,000 children are taking part in the programme. No financial support from RIB is given to the schools, except some start-up money, Bari said, adding that the total idea will be destroyed if these schools are funded like the NGOs.

Lauding the Kajoli model, noted educationist Muhammad Zafar Iqbal said the children after completing the one-year programme can also be entitled to government scholarships meant for 40 percent of the children of a primary school, who are poor and meritorious and maintaining regular attendance.

"Different primary and high schools for these disadvantaged children can also be considered," he told The Daily Star. Otherwise, there is a possibility of them dropping out of the track and entering hazardous child labour markets, he added.

Speaking as the chief guest, Ambassador of the Netherlands Kees Beemsterboer said, "This is a clear sign of the commitment to change the lives and do everything possible to give the children a better future. The RIB can contribute to poverty reduction through this programme."

RIB Director for Research and Programme Dr Korban Ali said that every year about 74 lakh children could not enrol in the primary schools. "The real development will not take place unless they are merged with the mainstream education."

A teacher demonstrates how the children learn to read and write under the Kajoli Early Childhood Learning Model at a Children's Fair held on the premises of The Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB) in the city yesterday.. PHOTO: STAR