Four-year old Soni's mum is proud. Her daughter recently started attending one of the Early Childhood Development centres set up by SA4D in Mirzapur, North India. That means Soni is the first person in the family to learn to read and write.

Education can’t be taken for granted in the North Indian district of Mirzapur. Child labour and the lack of educational establishments make school enrolment difficult. One child in four leaves primary school early. There is a lack of sanitary facilities, corporal punishment is common practice and classes are overfilled, with up to 90 children per class. The learning environment requires pupils to have a lot of strength and resilience, things that children from disadvantaged backgrounds lack.

Early Childhood Development for a good start to school

SA4D and local NGO CREDA are breaking the vicious circle of poverty and disadvantage with early childhood development centres. It is between the ages of three and six that children develop the skills that are necessary for starting school successfully. Through SA4D’s sport and play-based approach, the children at the centre learn what will be expected of them at school in a playful way. For example, the children and staff go on an imaginary journey to the ‘forest’ where they have to cross ‘streams’ and avoid ‘dangerous animals’. Not only does this teach the children listening skills, it also improves their motor skills.

Sustainability through government cooperation

To ensure the long-term success at school of three to six-year-olds, SA4D is involving families and authorities too. We show caregivers how they can support their children, and promote saving and credit groups to improve the families’ financial situation. We are also ensuring the municipality’s support and fostering cooperation with relevant government agencies, for example with existing governmental services that can be offered in the centres.