Foundation First’s recent focus has been on how to maintain young children’s educational opportunities, both while schools have been closed and after they reopen. We have also initiated a health education programme to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Our view has always been that one of the functions of basic education is to promote health. We believe that, to keep healthy, a young child needs to develop their skills in interacting with others and their abilities such as reasoning and self-regulation, as well as developing skills in the national curriculum content areas. The coronavirus has thrown these needs into sharp relief and placed hygiene and health centre stage, especially for the least advantaged. Given that the World Health Organization and similar agencies prioritize hand washing in tackling coronavirus, it seems obvious to us to prioritize it with young children, in conjunction with developing their interaction and reasoning skills etc.
We are particularly concerned about young children living in remote and under-resourced localities. Along with their families and communities, these children were disadvantaged before COVID-19 came along, and now their disadvantage has increased. An illustration of this is that their more fortunate peers have access at present to technological home-schooling solutions (e.g. learning by TV, radio, SMS) while they do not.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the learning most needed at the moment by young children such as these involves developing their awareness and skills in relation to hygiene and health.
We are working with our partners to convey to underprivileged families with young children the message that frequent, thorough hand washing with soap and water is the main way of preventing coronavirus.
We elaborate on what we mean by ‘thorough’ and we emphasize which daily activities must be preceded by hand washing if good hygiene is to be maintained. Other aspects of reducing the risk of transmission of COVID-19 (and, indeed, any illness) are also dealt with. These measures are aimed at improving the long-term health benefits of families as well as potentially saving lives in the short term.