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Simple learning tools are teaching lifelong lessons in remote Indonesia

At a ChildFund-supported early childhood development (ECD) centre in Sumba, Indonesia, teacher Kristina makes model fruit out of old newspapers and paint, resources she has nearby, so she can show her pupils, children aged five and younger, what fruits look like.

“None of these things are difficult to make,” she says. “They just take time, but you see around here, we have no choice. We cannot just talk all the time in class. Children need to be stimulated in their learning, and we need teaching aids that children are interested in and can relate to, so that they have a better understanding of the topic.”

The ECD centre in Sumba focuses plenty of attention on creating educational tools with locally available resources.

“A popular game is snakes and ladders made from cardboard and old books,” says Gadriana, who is in charge of the centre. “We also use big dices to teach numbers. This one (seen above) is made from cardboard. The only cost is in the paint and plastic to protect them.”

Every day, children are allowed to choose the game they want to play and with whom they wish to play. As many as 10 children will line up to play ‘throw’ which has game pieces made out of used newspaper and spare wood.

“Children love this game,” says Gadriana. “It helps them judge distance and count. Children also love to play congkak, which is a traditional game of counting with the aim of filling the opponent`s pots. The one that we use is made from egg cartons and seeds!”

As children develop and get older, they need different educational resources.

“Each morning, before some of older children are allowed to play outside, they have to do two things,” says Margaretha, one of the teachers.

“The first is to place pictures of themselves on sticks on the class attendance poster to indicate their attendance at school. The second is to pick up a folded paper from inside a small rattan holder. On each sheet a number is written, or a simple calculation. Each child has to either work out the calculation or sound out the answer before they go and play outside. For this activity, different coloured seeds and sticks are used. Children learn to count by touching the objects as they count.

“Having this activity before school enables the teacher to engage and develop a bond with each child while providing direct one-on-one support to them,” Margaretha adds. “It also provides the opportunity for children to work alone, with the teacher or in a group, as learning is seen as a communal activity. The other thing this activity does is provide structure and sense of routine to the day. With more than 30 children in each class, we have to manage children from the time they arrive.”

Children also are surrounded by numbers and shapes in the form of pictures. “These learning resources are cheap and easy to make, so teachers and children feel more comfortable about using these resources,” Kristina says, and they are kept where everyone has access to them. The children have to ask permission, but it is usually given.

“With these resources, they get to play with a range of different educational toys, and we know that they are learning while enjoying being a child. I wish I had these when I was a child,” she says.

To keep everyone engaged in the learning process, the teachers at this ECD centre in Sumba are constantly developing new toys and learning resources.

“Currently, we are looking at developing math resources for older children that encourage them to work more by themselves over a period of time,” says Gadriana. “We want them to extend their concentration more and develop their self-esteem.

“We want children to see that math can be fun!”

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