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UNICEF opens five new kindergartens to increase access to early childhood education

Only 59 per cent of the estimated 153,000 five-year-olds in Jordan are attending kindergarten

By Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto - Dec 10,2018 - Last updated at Dec 10,2018

In this photo taken on Sunday, children play at a new kindergarten in the suburb of Marj Al Hammam (Photo by Ana V. Ibáñez Prieto)

AMMAN — UNICEF Jordan on Sunday inaugurated five new kindergartens in an effort to provide access to preschool for vulnerable children in the governorates of Tafileh, Jerash, Zarqa, Amman and Baqaa refugee camp. 

Supported by the US Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, the new kindergarten schools are part of UNICEF’s efforts to support an eight-year executive plan signed by the Ministry of Education in July of last year to universalise access to one year of preschool (KG-2) by 2025.

In addition to guaranteeing access to quality, affordable KG-2 for all children, the UN agency is also working to increase the availability of KG-1 and nurseries for younger children and support programmes for parents, according to UNICEF early childhood development specialist, Eduardo García. 

“One year of preschool increases the educational outcomes children achieve in school, and reduces the number of dropouts significantly,” García told The Jordan Times during the opening of the kindergarten in Marj Al Hammam. 

“The earlier we intervene, the more impact it will have on children’s development, because it is in the first years of life that they increase their cognitive and social skills,” García added. 

To support the efforts of the Ministry of Education, UNICEF Jordan has supported the opening of 76 new KG-2 classrooms over the past year, ensuring preschool access for over 4,000 children from different nationalities in the Kingdom. 

But according to the latest figures issued by the UN agency, only 59 per cent of the estimated 153,000 five-year-olds in Jordan are attending kindergarten.

“Jordan has very sophisticated policies and ambitious programmes for early childhood development, but we are still very far from the targets,” García said, noting that “significant disparities between geographic locations and socioeconomic groups still hinder universal access to early childhood education”. 

Rana Siada, the mother of a 5-year-old girl who recently enrolled at the new kindergarten in Marj Al Hammam, told The Jordan Times that she could not previously enrol her child in preschool due to high tuition fees. 

“Here, I get the chance to provide my daughter with a preschool education at the sole cost of transportation,” the mother said, expressing delight over her child’s chance “to start off with a good education, and learn to love school even before starting it”. 

Amneh Mohammad, a mother of four children, faced similar difficulties. “I have two daughters enrolled here at KG-1 and KG-2, and they are so happy about being able to attend classes and meet other children,” the mother said. She added that her two older children were not able to attend preschool due to expenses.

Garcia added that UNICEF was also working on a project to open more kindergartens in community centres and bolster its Hajati cash programme, which provides financial support to allow families to send their children to preschool. 

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