Community Mobilizer as an Advocate on the Importance of Early Education
Eliesa Qazimi is the Community Mobilizer in the Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) Center in Komogllave, located in the Ferizaj region. She has been engaged in the project since November 2021, while the ECCD center opened in February 2022.
Eliesa explained how the establishment of the ECCD center has challenged and positively influenced the perspective of parents/caregivers and other community members on the importance of early childhood education.
The name of the center itself has made parents/caregivers and the community aware that apart from care, quality education at an early age is key to a child’s proper development.
To reach this level of awareness, as a community mobilizer, Eliesa has conducted home visits (door-to-door) to extend the knowledge of parents/caregivers on the educational and developmental benefits of enrolling children in the ECCD center.
Eliesa explained how her duties came with many challenges as well. She experienced some difficulties in gathering information from the local government institutions on families with children aged 3-5, and then advocating to parents/caregivers to enroll their children in the center. She said that a huge advantage to her role was the fact that she was from that community herself, therefore, she was very familiar with their culture and views. That facilitated the process of not only identifying girls, boys, and parents/caregivers to benefit from the ECCD services but also approaching and communicating with them.
During the initiation phase of the project, parents/caregivers have shown their ambiguity and concerns regarding the ECCD center. One of the main reasons behind their skepticism was the lack of information and that they have not encountered such a center before. “Therefore, during the home visits, I encouraged them to visit Save the Children’s website, in order for them to see similar ECCD models in other municipalities. I even said that we could go together and visit the two other ECCD centers that SCiK has established in the region of Ferizaj [Nerodime and Zaskok].” Their ambiguities and concerns began to fade away,which led to the enrollment of 40 children at the ECCD center. “Now they are very thankful and grateful, they even feel very lucky that the center has opened in our village.” There are parents/caregivers who eventhough have no children of this age group, have shown great interest in the center.
The community mobilizer is extensively engaged since the initial phase of the project. First in identifying girls, boys, and parents /caregivers in the community who can benefit from ECCD services. Second, in providing home visits, educational packages, and assisting in organizing caregiver sessions in the center. Finally, by involving children and community members in ECCD activities in both ECCD centers and at home, especially for beneficiaries who live in remote areas and cannot attend the centre regularly due to transportation.
The community mobilizer has a key role in early childhood care and development, as they enable better functioning of the triangle ‘parents/caregiver- children -community mobilizer’. This is also because the trust of the parents is first created through the community mobilizer because she/he is the first person they meet. In addition, they always focus on creating appropriate activities for the age group of children that promote hygiene, general knowledge, physical and mental well-being, etc.
The trainings provided by SCiK to build on my professional capacities have greatly enabled me to provide quality and inclusive ECCD services on various topics such as class management, assessment and observation, gender-sensitivity, good hygiene, sanitation, healthy nutrition practices, and stimulation activities for girls and boys. We have also learned how to easily put them into practice as we have had the chance to meet and exchange good practices with other community mobilizers.
Eliesa says that she is proud of her community, particularly of parents/caregivers whose commitment is increasing day by day by participating in caregiver sessions that support child protection, wellbeing, gender equality, and disability principles. They also saw this as an opportunity to show the skills that their children have gained since they enrolled in the center. Apart from the sessions, they have also shown great interest in participating in educational opportunities provided by SCiK, such as Positive Discipline in Everyday Parenting (PDEP).
Through caregiver sessions, parents/caregivers have increased their knowledge of the topics that they choose. Sometimes a piece of information that might sound very simple to the expert who is providing that training, can mean a lot and is highly necessary to the parents/caregivers. After every session, parents continued their sharing their impressions by saying that they learned a lot of new information about early childhood development. Something very simple happens that can change your worldview and have a positive impact.
Eliesa considers herself and her community to be lucky for the establishment of the ECCD center in her village [Komogllave], especially after witnessing its positive impact on girls and boys, as well as parents/caregivers.
I think it is very necessary and vital to invest in this direction. This investment is not only for the village or the community where this center is established, but it is an investment for the whole society. I really wish that every village in Kosovo has such a center. It is the best gift that can be given to children because the results of education at this early age are seen throughout life. Children who receive a quality education in their early childhood are more likely to develop the critical skills they need to succeed in school.