ECD Programme Theme: “Laying down the Foundation for Children’s future Learning and Skills development”

Overall Goal of ECD Programme: To contribute to holistic development of children in Kenya through implementation of integrated and sustainable Community Based &managed ECD Programme’s initiatives for Children 0-10 years.

Target populations: Low income groups including the Urban Poor/ people living in slums/ informal Settlement Schemes, Rural Poor, Marginalized Populations, Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (0VC) and Children living with various forms of disability.

Primary Sources of funding: Parents, community members, local and external Development Agencies/donors, Faith Based Organizations, individual of good will, the corporate sector, Government of Kenya, County Governments, local fundraising events and related initiatives.

Population reached: GRADIF-K’s ECD Education Programmes reaches out to 18,500 Children directly and over 36,000 Children indirectly between 0-10 years in 5 Counties in Kenya but resource mobilization efforts are going on to scale up the programme to additional counties. In some marginalized communities, children as old as 10 years are still in ECD Programmes.

Overview of ECD Programme:

GRADIF-K recognizes the role played by Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programme and its contribution to the counties’, national development and to the general improvement of the situation of young children in Kenya. ECD Programme is implemented as an integral part of community development and as a sustainable development strategy. Studies have revealed that the most critical period of human development, is in the first 8 years of life. During this time, the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth and development and children acquire the ability to think, speak, learn and reason (Shore, 1997). By age 6, the child has acquired skills, expectancies and notion about the world and people, cultural oriented attitudes and the personality patterns formed (Bruner, 1966). This is a time when cognitive stimulation, nutrition, and emotional attachment all work together to shape the identity, coping skills, intelligence, and problem solving abilities that children will need to grow into healthy, intelligent and positively adjusted adolescents and adults.

The extent to which these processes lead to healthy development depends upon the qualities of stimulation, support, and nurturance in the social environments in which children live, learn and grow. There is, therefore, need to have a continuum of services from birth through the early primary years and the need for effective involvement of families and communities in the early childhood development and learning activities, to thoroughly and professionally manage these efforts.

The foundation of good health, personality and intellectual development are established during the early childhood years and therefore precisely the time of development when children need the most care and support.Compared to the other stages of human development, early childhood (defined as the age between birth and eight years) have the highest propensity to resilience and environmental adaptation. Conversely, this may also mean that environmental deficiencies and negative experiences are more likely to cause “faulty” development with serious effects later in life.

GRADIF-K therefore understands that, early childhood interventions programmes after the age of eight years may be too late and ineffectual because this leads to educational wastage in terms of dropout, repetition and failure rates in primary and secondary school. Quality care and effective ECD services promotes positive and holistic development, physically, cognitively, socially, emotionally, morally and in language development.Holistic ECD programmes have a lasting impact on the long-term successes and attainments of a child. Guided by the above, GRADIF-K Implements ECD Programme as an integral part of community development initiatives encouraging closer networking, collaboration and partnerships building with like-minded institutions, organization and community groups.The programme falls under GRADIF-K broad thematic area on Social Protection. The programme is highly integrated, age appropriate, culturally sensitive, locally managed wit in built aspects of sustainability. The ECD centers are based at the community levels or attached to primary schools for smooth transition where various activities like community health, nutrition, civic education, women empowerment and livelihood projects are conducted.

Rational Behind GRADIF-K’s efforts in Investing and Supporting ECD Programme:

  • GRADIF-K believes that Investments in quality Early Childhood Development (ECD) Programmes reduces inequalities rooted in poverty and social discrimination by giving children in disadvantaged backgrounds a fare start in life and in schooling and that early attention to gender can produce changes in the development of the Girl-Child.
  • ECD contributes greatly to the realization of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through improvements in community health, nutritional and sanitation that benefit children are also likely to benefit family and communities’ at large.
  • ECD also contributes to Education for All (EFA) in that children who participate in ECD Programmes are not likely to drop out of school and greatly contribute to enrollments, retention and completion of basic education programmes. They have lesser need for remedial measures, thus reducing costs and creating savings on human and material resource wastage. This is supported by the fact that children who go through ECD programmes have easier transition to lower primary school level and tend to advance smoothly in other levels of education.
  • Studies have shown that investments in Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes has reduced inequalities rooted in poverty and social discrimination by giving children in disadvantaged backgrounds a fare start in life and in schooling and that early attention to gender can produce changes in the development of the Girl-Child. Early Childhood Development is critical for fulfilling the rights of the child in accordance to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and on the African Child (ACRWC) on the Rights and the Welfare of the Child.
  • Quality ECD Programmes are effective strategies in poverty reduction in any Nation. Effective and quality ECD Programmes breaks intergeneration cycles of poverty, disease, gender inequity and violence. Children who successfully go through recommended levels of education are likely to be employed either in gainful private, public and self-employment establishments. This enables them to improve their lively standards and to meaningfully get involved and participate in community/national development projects. Quality ECD programmes promote savings on resources which could have been spent on Health care treating preventable Early Childhood diseases, malnutrition reduction programmes and addressing other social challenges, can be channeled to more productive community development programmes. Man hours spent by mothers/care givers taking care of sick children can be utilized in more productive family and community development activities. This means that ECD saves public funds in health, education and welfare.
  • Gender inequalities are also addressed in that girls enrolling in formal ECD programmes are likely to continue with schooling and increasing the chances of improving their future lives and that of their families. In some communities, especially in Arid and Semi-Arid regions, ECD is the only formal learning experience the individuals may ever have, where they will achieve literacy, numeric and essential life skills.

Key Interventions and Innovations Undertaken/Supported:

  1. Community mobilization and sensitization on Child Rights and ECD issues to entrench local ownership and sustainability of the programme.
  2. Capacity development to various programme stakeholders are organized to impart them with relevant skills for proper implementation of quality ECD programs which include systematic caregivers/Staff training, effective program Monitoring and Evaluation at different levels of implementation. Project staff, caregivers, Managements, and volunteers receive trainings/sensitizations that include, but does not have to be limited to:
    1. Rights of the Child and ECD Concepts.
    2. Child development, covering such topics as physical, social cognitive, emotional and moral development.
    3. Psychosocial support and taking children through the journey of Life.
    4. Gender Based Violence (GBV) and its impact of child development
    5. Hand wash and hygiene education for both the children and the community.
    6. Health education, nutrition including growth monitoring and kitchen gardening.
    7. Diagnosis and monthly monitoring of children’s development and referrals to appropriate institutions for advanced care/interventions.
    8. Smooth and successful transition of children from Home to the ECD centers to and to standard one.
    9. Parenting and caregivers skills trainings.
    10. Age-Appropriate activities.
    11. Nutritional surveillance
    12. Advocacy and influencing policy for quality ECD programmes and services.
    13. Integration of projects/sectors for holistic Child development.
    14. Design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of ECCD programs.
    15. Rights based programming.
    16.  Advocacy and Child participation
    17. Resource Mobilization and project sustainability
    18. Management and Governance of ECD Centers
    19. Monitoring, evaluation and quality assurance.
  1. Provision of appropriate services for children below three years of age (0-3)
  2. Supporting implementation of education reforms and the alignment of Education with the New Constriction (COK, 2010).

5.      Supporting parents and ECD centers managements in local materials development for learning and play.

  1. Formation, capacity strengthening, facilitating and participation in ECD/Education/Child Rights County and National level Networks meetings, forums, conferences advocating for supportive ECD policies and quality ECD services.
  2. Supporting infrastructural development of the Community ECD centers to provide conducive environment for Child leaning and holistic development.
  3. Provision of Psychosocial Support Services to OVCs – Orphaned and Vulnerable Children are identified and linked up with like-minded organizations for additional Psychosocial Support Services and care support.
  1. Integration of ECD Programme with Religious Systems – Integration of ECD Programme with Islamic Madrassa system has reduced the age at which children join standard one and complete primary school education thereby reducing the number of children dropping out of school due to odd age and ridicule from younger classmates.
  2. Addressing Needs of Special Children – Children with special needs and delayed development milestones are identified and referred to appropriate institutions for specialized interventions and care.
  3. Knowledge and Skills Strengthening for Teachers and Care Givers – Enhancement of teachers and care givers knowledge and skills through refresher course organized by partners in collaboration with the ministry of Education, Districts’ Centers for EARLY Childhood Education (DICECE) Programme has led to has led to improved services for children 0-8 years.
  4. Child Rights Campaigns with Community-The is aimed at reducing incidences of child rights abuse due to intensified intervention activities by the Counties’ ECD and Child rights networks which are also influencing policies at various local levels.

13.  Integration of children with various forms of disabilities and related special needs

14.  Supporting the infrastructural development for the ECD Centers

15.  Investing in income generation activities and mobilizing members of the community to become fully involved in ECD sustainability initiatives.

16.  Undertaking Community information dissemination and Civic education on various matters affecting their lives including the New Constitutor, dangers of early marinate and Female genital mutilation, child trafficking.

  1. Involvement of entire Community in ECD initiatives by targeting men – Campaigns are intensified to improve men’s involvement in ECD Programmes’ initiatives both in the Centers and at the family levels to ensure that children have role models particularly in the counties where men’s involvement in child rearing is very low.

18.  Working with stakeholders to address factors hindering smooth and successful transition of children from Home to ECD centers and to primary schools

Key Impact of ECD Programme supported by GRADIF-K:

  1. Increased enrollment of children in formal and Non-formal ECD Programme by Gender in all the counties. This sis due to intensified community awareness on the importance of ECD Programme for their children.
  2. Increased community participation in ECD Programme initiatives by Gender. GRADIF-K has intensified community sensitization on Men’s involvement in ECD programme, which is yielding positive results. This is marked particularly in communities where child rearing is seen as women’ work.
  3. Improved child health and Nutritional statuses. This is through nutrition and food security initiatives supported, nutritional surveillance and nutrition education activities organized by GRAID-K and other stakeholders.
  4. Smooth and successful transition of children from home to ECD centers and to Primary Schools. This is as a result of trainings on successful transition and working closely with primary schools.
  5. Partnership building. GRADIF-K has identified partners on the ground. This includes Community Based Organizations (CBOs), Development Agencies, Faith Based Organizations (FBOs), Government relevant departments, Women Groups, Private and public institutions undertaking ECD activities at the grassroots.
  6. Capacity building of partners. In an attempt to improve the organizational capacity of partners, GRADIF-K has organized training workshops for ECD implementers& stakeholders on Child Rights, ECD Concepts, Child rearing, Successful Transitions, Resource mobilization and leadership among others.
  7. Networking and information sharing. GRADIF-K has organized exchange visits and provides opportunities for information sharing among stakeholders. They also attend meetings, conferences and workshops on ECD programming. GRADIF-K is also the focal point for the Counties ECD& Basic Education and Child Rights Networks.
  8. Involvement in policy development efforts. GRADIF-K has supported the process of National ECD policy development spearheaded by the Ministry of Education and lately in the review of implementation of the Education reforms through the Elimu Yetu Coalition. GRADIF-K is currently advocating and closely monitoring the implementation of ECD Programme services through the devolved governments at the county levels.
  9. Documentation: Key among the available documentation is a ECD Baseline undertaken in 2005. GRADIF-K undertook an ECD baseline survey to document the status of ECD services and identify gaps and entry points. Much is also being documented through participatory effective monitoring systems, data analysis to inform programme interventions and actions.
  10. Enhanced community development and improved living standards through initiation of various community development initiatives by parents who have their children taken care of at various ECD Centers.


High poverty levels among communities served hence reducing their contribution ability to ECD programmes’ services

  • High ignorance on the importance of ECD Programme for children by both the community members and the policy makers’ hence low investments in the programme.
  • Inadequate and poor infrastructure to support quality ECD Programmes e.g. few ECD centers and poor learning environments that is hazardous to children- poor dilapidated structures with no child friendly facilities.
  • Inadequate qualified ECD Personnel e.g. teachers and care givers to provide quality services to children
  • Inadequate resources (both materials and funds) to support quality ECD Programme interventions.
  • The impact of Free Primary Education- Parents is not ready to pay fees FOR children in ECD programme when they know that primary education is free.
  • Long distances from home to the nearest ECD Center’s that poses danger to very young children.
  • Retrogressive Social cultural factors which do not support adequate care for children and mothers e.g. on reproductive health and community feeding practices.
  • Lack of technical capacity on how to identify and utilize local resources to support ECD work.
  • Inadequate measures in place to promote smooth transition from home to ECD canters and to Primary schools.
  • Poor female gender representation in the ruining and management of ECD Programmes coz men tender to dominate in committee where funds issued are involved leaving out women who contribute 90 to ECD programmes.
  • Poor communication and roads networks for easier accessibility to all existing ECD canters to provide necessary services.
  • High dependency syndrome on external support hinders community contribution in ECD service provision.
  • The impact of ICT on the child development e.g watching of television and the Google mothers!


  • GRADIF-K focuses on the complete participation of the family, especially of the mothers, guardians or primary caregivers because knowledge that is passed on contributes to the sustainability and incorporation of the best practices of ECD within the family and ultimately benefits the child
  • GRADIF-K ensures that quality formal ECD programs include a strong Educational component. Education is defined broadly as hands-on, age-appropriate activities that enable a child to develop critical thinking and creative skills through a variety of medium, including Arts and play.
  • Supporting holistic interventions and high quality ECD programs which include comprehensive and integrated approaches that encompass primary health care and nutrition.
  • Supporting ECD Programs which incorporate the application of knowledge in areas of the child’s physical needs (health, immunizations, nutrition monitoring, fine and gross motor development), Social needs (Early stimulation, relation’s with others, social competence, development of self-esteem) cognitive needs (brain development, skills learning, language development and Emotional needs (feeling of security, relations with others, awareness of self) and moral needs.
  • GRADIF-K Promotes ECD programs which reflect the inherent culture of the community but also which seek, as appropriate and needed, to blend scientific research on child development to strengthen traditional child rearing practices. We ensure that materials and curricula used are culturally sensitive and relevant.
  • GRADIF-K encourages collaboration, building linkages and effective networking with Governments of Kenya (GOK) relevant Ministries, Civil Society Organizations (CSOS) includingNon-Governmental Organizations/Non State (N.G.O.s), International development agencies, the Private Sector, Faith Based institutions,  Research Institutions, institutions of High learning and Individuals to provide further opportunities for cost-effective and quantity ECD Programs services to the targeted group
  • Integration of ECD programs with related programs e.g. Food security, health program, education program, values education programs, youth, functional adult literacy and promotion of livelihood and related community economic empowerment projects/programs.
  • Encouraging communities to Identify and making use of existing local resources, ideas and social networks to enhance ECD
  • Supporting feeding programmes. This is sometimes made easier if primary schools hosting ECD centers are willing to share their food rations with the centers. In most cases, parents are encouraged to contribute foods and cook for the children.
  • Competition from low quality private ECD Centres.
  • Promotion of Cost-sharing in all ECD activities with the communities targeted to promote ownership, impact and sustainability
  • Linking ECD Centers’ plans with County and National plans.

 Lessons Learned.

Some of the lessons we at GRADIF-K have learned during the implementation of the ECD programme and which will be taken into account during the scaling and replications of the programme include:

  • Communities fail to invest in ECD Programmes because they lack information on the importance/role of the programme for their children’s’ positive development. A lot of awareness creation in all community of the same should be intensified to improve the participation of community members in ECD programmes by gender.
  • Capacity building for key programme stakeholders is the most effective strategy of ensuring the effectiveness and the sustainability of the ECD programme and related programmes implemented.
  • Knowledge of Child Rights among ECD key programme implementers, stakeholders and the communities highly contributes to effective and quality ECD services for the children. One cannot divorce the Rights Of the Child and the ECD concept.
  • Community participation in all stages of ECD project management will determine the success of the programme.
  • ECD being a complex programme, requires a mult-sectoral approach for easy realization of the set goals. The programme is more effective if implementers adopt a more programme integrated approach: Health, Education, Food security, Livelihoods &Community micro-enterprises, HIV/Aids among others.
  • Not all the organizations/groups implementing ECD programmes have the interest of the children at heart but some are doing so for varied reasons and interests.
  • The Government, Organizations and communities are not ready to invest in areas where there are no immediate returns. ECD Programmes are not a priority to most organizations planning and little or no resource allocation is done to such programmes because it is seen as a waste of resources. This means that they also lack information on the importance of the same.
  • Dependency syndrome as a result of long periods of relief services is a major drawback to the sustainability of ECD programmes in some districts.
  • Networking among ECD/Child Rights stake holders is a key strategy in ensuring effectiveness, quality and sustainability of the ECD programme.
  • Capacity building, community involvement/participation, use of the locally available resources should be encouraged as some of the key strategies in ensuring effectiveness and sustainability of ECD programmes.
  • Communities have a lot of resources at their disposal but are yet to identify and make use of them for their various development initiatives. A lot of awareness to communities on the availability of various local resources to be tapped for investment in ECD programmes should be intensified for improved service provision to targeted children.
  • Creating a good working relationship between teachers in ECD programs and those in lower primary school promotes smooth and successful transition of children from the centers to Primary schools. Promoting interaction of children in ECD centers and those in Primary school also plays a key role in enhancing successful transition.
  • The issue of accountability is not only about putting in place and adhering to proper financial management systems and procedures, it also touches on prudent utilization of otherresources including the amount of time spent by a care giver or a teacher with children, the amount and quality of information passed to children.
  • Unless issues of poverty are effectively addressed, it will always take a longer period before development organizations can achieve sustainability
  • Communities are willing to make every effort to make contributions in ECD and other development projects but survival needs are proving a drawback to this. Some community members would like to support initiatives which promise immediate benefits as opposed to long term benefits as in the case of ECD Programmes.
  • Capacity buildings sharing of relevant information, experiences enables ECD programme implementers enhance knowledge, skills, widen their world view and helps them “think out of the box”. This improves the quality of programs developed and the delivery mechanisms to various targeted groups.