The first few years of a life are crucial in terms of human development. By growing up in a stable environment and being properly cared for means that children are more likely to fully develop their thinking, language, emotional and social skills, and to suffer from less disease. They are then able to take these valuable foundations with them when they start school. At school, they progress and their performing prospects are improved. As adolescents and later on in life, these same children build on these foundations, have greater self- esteem and have a greater chance at becoming productive members of society.
However, for children growing up in extreme poverty and deprivation, these solid foundations are never developed. From birth children in marginalised communities have a much lower chance of succeeding in life. In developing countries many children who are younger than 5 are exposed to multiple risks, including poverty, malnutrition, poor health, and un-stimulating home environments, all of which detrimentally affect their cognitive, motor, and social-emotional development.
Right from birth, children born in slums and other harsh environments are dealing with toxic stress. These toxic stress levels are damaging to the formation of the brain. As The Centre on the Developing Child from Harvard University explains. “Toxic stress in early childhood is associated with disruptive effects on the nervous system and stress hormone regulatory systems that can damage developing brain architecture and chemistry and lead to lifelong problems in learning, behaviour, and both physical and mental health.”
This information highlights the case for stringent and robust early childhood intervention policies as a key to helping millions of deprived and vulnerable children around the world. By giving our children in Mathare slum access to an excellent pre-school education, we will be providing them with the vital foundations for life, a chance to escape poverty and an opportunity to secure a future for themselves.
It is every child’s right to have the best chance of being a success in life. Giving children this opportunity to fully develop in their early years is one of the best investments that a country can make. Tragically early childhood education and care is traditionally given the least amount of attention by education policy makers in governments across the globe.
"Extensive analysis by economists has shown that education and development investments in the earliest years of life produce the greatest returns. Most of those returns, which can range from $3 to $16 per dollar invested, benefit the community through reduced crime, welfare, and educational remediation, as well as increased tax revenues on higher incomes for the participants of early childhood programs when they reach adulthood."
At “We the Change” Foundation we believe that by focusing on providing our children in Mathare slum with a solid foundation, we are providing them with fundamental skills for their futures. Through a combination of a safe learning environment, proper nutrition, well trained teachers, on tap counselling and a stimulating and creative exercise and play programme, we aim to provide these children with the opportunity to transcend the limitations imposed on them by their living environment and to empower them to fulfil their true potential.