In some parts of the world, like in the US, registering your child for kindergarten is truly an emotional step. Your baby is a baby no more. Their educational journey has begun. Countless tears are shed in anticipation of the great change in developmental status.
But, Mom and Dad’s emotions aside, thanks to public schools, beginning and then graduating from kindergarten is a natural first step for five and six year old children in the US. Parents don’t worry that there won’t be a building or what’s most critical–an opportunity for their child’s learning to flourish.
The same is not true for early learners in Northern Uganda.
In designated settlements without early learning centers, kids simply stay at home until primary school begins in the 1st grade.
Yet, thanks to the generous child sponsors of Feed the Children back in 2013, all of this changed for a group of very excited and eager kindergarteners. The Sunrise Early Childhood Development Center opened its doors near Gulu, Uganda.
Starting small, a group of four qualified teachers and three support staff welcomed 23 preschoolers. At preschool, the kids learn the alphabet (A to Z) and counting. They also begin to learn colors, different types of animals, greetings (morning/evening greetings) and social skills like naming family members. Each child receives a hot meal each day provided by generous Feed the Children donors. Feed the Children has also installed physical equipment on site and provided school uniforms.
What is most remarkable about Sunrise is that it’s the only early childhood center in Twonokun, a village with over 1000 households. The kids who come to Sunrise are the lucky few.
Now, Sunrise hosts 124 children, many of whom now receive three meals a day from our staff–getting vital nutrients needed for their growth and development.
Sunrise hosted it first ever kindergarten graduation on November 28th of last year. (In Uganda, the school term ends for Christmas holidays late in November). It was a happy day indeed and lives on as a day for rejoicing!
With clear skies above, and the atmosphere bright and cheerful inside; children lined up for the festivities. A total of 30 children participated in this first graduation ceremony at Twonokun Village.
As part of the program, the graduates recited facts they’d learned and shared songs and dances with their adoring parents and caregivers, who gathered to watch the festivities.
In speeches, the local leadership voiced their support towards the continued growth of the Center. The parent representative exclaimed “Thank you so much Feed the Children for making sure our kids are fed at school!”
One Feed the Children staffer observed of the mood of the children on their special day: “Their faces were visibly excited. It was a happy day to rejoice in the voices of the children and their hope!”
Following a beautiful ceremony of dance and skits and crowned with a football (soccer) tournament that was arranged by the youth of Twonokun; community members entertained parents.
The day concluded with the official dedication of the school. The centre also serves as a day care centre for other families which means that children of less than 3 years also have access to porridge and a lunch meal!
We are thankful that we can participate in the joy of making moments like these happen in Uganda. We know that as they study hard, even with the challenges, that their future is bright. Congratulations, graduates!