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Scaling-Up Early Child Development Interventions in Rwanda

Principal Investigator: Professor Patricia Justino, Institute of Development Studies

Globally, around 250 million children under the age of five do not meet key development milestones [1], which reduces their ability to reach their full potential, and compromises the success of the Sustainable Development Goals [2]. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and a large body of scientific evidence have shown that parenting is one of the strongest influences on early child development (ECD). As a result, there has been a recent push towards the implementation of parent training programmes across the world. However, despite the increasing popularity of these programmes, gaps remain in our knowledge of what works to promote positive parenting practices, particularly in vulnerable contexts. This project aims to establish a long-term partnership between the IDS, Save the Children UK (SCUK) and Save the Children International Rwanda (SCI-R) to analyse, evaluate and scale-up (in partnership with the Government of Rwanda) a unique holistic programme (First Steps) that supports families of children aged 0-3 in the district of Ngororero in Rwanda.


Update Monday 30th October 2017

The success of the Sustainable Development Goals critically depends on those 250 million children below the age of five that, globally, do not meet key development milestones and see their potential future compromised.

Past evidence has shown how parent’s practices fundamentally shape early child development (ECD) by influencing the physical, socio-emotional, cognitive and language development of children. This project tests empirically this relationship by analysing, evaluating and scaling-up a unique programme (First Steps), which supports families aged 0-3 in the district of Ngororero in Rwanda. The project involves a close partnership between the Institute of Development Studies, Save the Children UK and Save the Children International Rwanda, with support from the Government of Rwanda (Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion).

The First Steps programme consists of a large-scale randomized control trial in which parents in the treatment group were offered (i) parenting education sessions guided by local facilitators and aided by a radio programme, and (ii) a basic package of education materials. The first evaluation of the programme was carried out between November 2015 and January 2016, and showed that children in the treatment group were more likely to meet ECD benchmarks in comparison to the control group. Parents in the treatment group also showed more engagement with children and adopted better health practices.

In order to explore options for scaling-up the programme, the project will conduct a follow-up survey to determine empirically what aspects of the programme have persisted over the long-term and whether these have an effect on children’s education outputs as the original children involved in the programme enter primary formal education for the first time. In addition, using focus group discussions with parents and in-depth interviews with local leaders, programme staff, schools and bookshops, and a set of behavioural experiments, the research will explore which mechanisms may shape how parenting affects ECD.

The project will produce several academic outputs and policy briefs, and will organise a series of workshops and conferences, between October 2017 and December 2018. Results from the research aim to improve our understanding of whether and how better parenting education may lead to improvements in ECD in the context of a low-income country, and to identify ways to better replicate similar holistic ECD interventions in developing countries.


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