Meet one of our volunteers, Harriet Delali Deku. Dela joined the Foundation First (FF) Ghana team in February 2021 and is planning to stay with us until she decides to leave.
My views on volunteering:
Volunteering is the act of giving your time and service to a cause without payment. It can be done for a variety of reasons. Some volunteer to pass government classes, some volunteer to give back near the holidays, and some just do it for the sake of doing it, without reason. For me, volunteering is a way of life. It was how I grew up, and it defines me. My goal in life is to inspire others to give back in any way they can, not because they have to, but because they want to.
My background and my volunteer role within FF:
I am a tertiary educator in the field of educational psychology, with over seven years’ experience of volunteering in different aspects both with local and international organizations. Currently, I am responsible for managing FF’s social media accounts and I am part of the newsletter team. I have a keen interest in developmentally appropriate practices in the early childhood education classroom and have expertise in understanding how children learn.
A taste of how I’ve developed through volunteering with FF:
I was glad to join an FF training-of-master-trainers workshop as it has helped me learn more about FF’s processes and procedures and prepare for my journey towards becoming an FF master trainer. The workshop included the following topics: Ghana National Teachers’ Standards, best practices in early childhood learning, and how to set up a contemporary model classroom. I learned, unlearned, and relearned many things and I notably gained from the workshop.
My personal recommendation to anyone wondering about volunteering:
My personal recommendation to you is to join a club or group that does community service. In addition, or alternatively, find a worthwhile charity that you would like to help, then call them and ask them what they need help with. You could get your friends involved and make it even more fun. For me, I love knowing I can do something, and that we as a generation have control over something. Volunteering does so much for the community, but it does so much for you as an individual as well.
Sabina Awortwe, our Partnership and Programme Manager, has written a series of thought-provoking pieces on the contemporary ECE scene in Ghana. Here is the first of these. It’s a myth-buster, outlining Sabina’s views on the damage to young children’s foundational learning caused by pervading myths and misconceptions about early childhood education.
Sabina is a preschool teacher educator with over three years’ experience of delivering Foundation First’s practical teacher development and support work and managing our partnerships and programmes. Sabina has a particular interest and expertise in educational frameworks and in the foundations of best practice early childhood education. In her role with FF, she has worked on a range of teacher education partnership initiatives with other national and international NGOs.
Some common misconceptions about early childhood education in Ghana: How Foundation First is addressing the issues
Early childhood education (ECE) is a programme for children from two to eight years old, which aims at the holistic development of a child’s social, emotional, academic and psychomotor skills that lay a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing.
In Ghana, prior to the government setting ECE as a priority in 2012 through its Programme to Scale-Up Quality Kindergarten Education in Ghana, there had been limited awareness about the unique nature of programmes for young children. However, despite the increased awareness in recent years, many myths and misconceptions about working in ECE persist.
Misconception #1: ECE is ‘day care’ and ECE professionals are ‘babysitters’
Some parents take the view that ECE professionals simply play all day and babysit children.This misconception has resulted in children failing to benefit from an educational experience that could assist their development and learning experiences for years to come. A well-trained early learning teacher has deep knowledge of how children develop physically, emotionally, socially and academically and they use this knowledge to create an engaging classroom environment and to individualise instruction for each child to ensure appropriate support at each stage in their development.
This is why Foundation First (FF) believes that effective early learning facilitators are far from babysitters and that effective ECE is far from day care. FF is helping to erase these myths/misconceptions by empowering ECE teachers with appropriate scientific and educational background knowledge and providing them with best practice curriculum-related teaching and learning experiences.
Misconception #2: Early childhood education forces children to start studying too early
Many Ghanaians think that this early stage in life is meant simply for kids to be free from learning and enjoy being young. To Foundation First, this is a complete myth. In our experience, children learn each and every day and they learn and take in more information at a younger age than they do when older. So early education is basically taking advantage of this early years period. Furthermore, research has proven that early years education helps, rather than harms, children’s academic future (Heckman, 2006; Barnett, 2011; and European Commission, 2014).
Our brain only gets built once and research has also proven that brain building is especially critical between the ages of two and seven (Sriram, 2020). That is why our FF training approach uses information from neuroscience and the foundations of early years learning to guide preschool teachers to expose young children to varied, stimulating experiences within calm, friendly environments. Our approach also emphasises the need for children to acquire executive function skills, including critical thinking, making connections, taking on challenges, and being self-directed and engaged learners.
Misconception #3: Early childhood education is a waste of government spending
FF thinks the opposite: that the government and society will benefit more from spending on early years education than on any other stage of education. Currently, many children are failing to achieve their potential in life and this can be looked at in terms of economic loss, such as human capital loss, so spending more on ECE would have economic benefits such as human capital gains (Dickens, Sawhill and Tebbs, 2006). Furthermore, investment in ECE reduces the chances of young children failing to properly develop key metacognitive skills, such as questioning and reflecting, as these skills “contribute significantly to [young children’s] learning and success” (Escolano-Perez, Herrero-Nivela and Anguera, 2019).
Furthermore, children who receive a solid foundation of quality ECE are more likely to live a healthy life (e.g. in terms of oral hygiene, hand washing, caring for their bodies, and being aware of nutritious foods), more likely to avoid negative lifestyles that can endanger their lives, more likely to continue their education when they finish high school, more likely to graduate from college, more likely to obtain highly skilled jobs that pay well, and less likely to get involved in criminal activity.
The scientific evidence is very clear as to what we should be doing in the ECE sector and how we should be doing it, as well as why doing it would lead to better outcomes and a better society for all. We, at Foundation First, will continue to promote this scientific evidence in our mission to undermine prevailing myths and misconceptions about ECE.
Barnett, W.S. (2011). Effectiveness of Early Educational Intervention. Science, 333, 975-978.
Dickens, W.T., Sawhill, I. and Tebbs, J. (2006). The Effects of Investing in Early Education on Economic Growth. Policy Brief #153 The Brookings Institution.
Escolano-Pérez, E., Herrero-Nivela, M.R. and Anguera, M.T. (2019). Preschool Metacognitive Skill Assessment in Order to Promote Educational Sensitive Response From Mixed-Methods Approach: Complementarity of Data Analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. (https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01298).
European Commission (2014). Proposal for Key Principles of a Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care. Report of the Working Group on Early Childhood Education and Care under the auspices of the European Commission, Brussels.
Heckman, J.J. (2006). Skill Formation and the Economics of Investing in Disadvantaged Children. Science, 312(5782), 1900-1902 (doi:10.1126/science.1128898).