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Early childhood development

We support children with disabilities in their early years, making sure they’re included in pre-school so they’re set up to achieve from an early age.

Children play with a parachute outside.

When children are given the right support in pre-school, they’re more likely to progress to primary school. This is especially true for children with disabilities.

We work with pre-schools run by community volunteers to encourage children with and without disabilities to play and learn together. Including children with disabilities in pre-schools supports their development and helps them progress and adapt well to primary education.

Watch the video below to learn how we’re supporting children to attend inclusive pre-schools in Malawi.

What we do

We work directly with pre-schools. We supply play equipment that can be used by all children, help schools make their own teaching resources, and help to create gardens so schools can provide daily meals. Teachers are also encouraged to include children with disabilities in everything from basic literacy instruction to games and activities.

We train teachers and caregivers. We work with pre-school teachers to organise their own training, and we help parents develop the knowledge and skills to support their children at home. We also train social workers and health workers to support families in their homes.

We combat discrimination against children with disabilities. Sometimes parents keep their child inside for fear they will be ostracised. We work to change negative attitudes by arranging community meetings and encouraging parents to send their children to pre-schools to interact with other children.

We organise health assessments within communities. Stigma surrounding disability means parents sometimes won’t leave their community to take their children for health check-ups, so we arrange for healthcare staff to assess children in their community. Occupational therapists provide counselling and encourage parents to take their children to hospital if needed.

We work nationally as well as locally. We encourage government ministries to increase inclusive pre-school provision, giving more children with disabilities the chance to learn. In Malawi, we have revised pre-school teacher training and early learning development standards so the needs of young children with disabilities are taken into account.

Click through the gallery below to learn more about inclusive pre-schools.

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children supported through our work in pre-schools in Malawi

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Sightsavers’ Ronnie Stapleton visited pre-schools across Malawi to train teachers how to include children with disabilities. She also learned a lot along the way.

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