Teaching young children is not an easy job. There are still many people who think that Early Childhood Education is merely a place for providing daycare or a place to play before continuing to the level of education in elementary schools. In fact, early childhood education is important in determining the development of children and the abilities of children at their golden age. Working as an educator or PAUD (ECD) tutor is not a trivial job, especially if it is done in areas facing various challenges such as Kadoki Horo, Kodi subdistrict, Southwest Sumba.
Mama Kristina Kaka is an educator at PAUD Wuku Wana, who, on the sidelines of her teaching activities, is also active as a cadre of the Birongo Posyandu in the village. So far, Mama Kristina has observed that children in PAUD often get bored quickly when doing activities such as drawing lines and shapes, writing letters, and counting numbers. PAUD pupils often only want to imitate their teacher, for example in singing or reciting letters, numbers, or words with the help of picture posters. As a result, to continue to get attention and keep children’s spirits up, educators like Mama Maria often give in to children’s wishes and let them only do fun activities without any progress in the learning process. The teachers also lack skills in assessing children’s development, so that the stimulation given to children is not in accordance with the developmental needs of individual children. For example, a child whose fine motor skills have developed is still given the same stimulation as a child whose fine motor skills have not yet been developed. Lesson plans and teaching materials are also very limited so there are not many interesting variations of activities other than singing and body movements.
This experience is not only faced by Mama Kristina, but also by other PAUD educators. This is due to the limited activities and simulations that are known and understood by PAUD educators like Mama Kristina. Teaching and learning activities feel monotonous and not well structured. This condition began to change when Mama Kristina attended routine training which helped her better carry out her role as a PAUD educator while at the same time understanding child health issues. This training is part of the HI ECD (Holistic Integrative Early Childhood Development) Module Development Program. This program initiative was born to fill a gap in the world of early childhood education, especially in Southwest Sumba, one of which is caused by a lack of understanding of educators in carrying out the teaching and learning process and understanding the modules used.
After Mama Kristina and other PAUD educators received training in the HI ECD Module Development Program, there was an improvement in teaching methods and the use of teaching materials such as using wastepaper balls and plastic spoons by Mama Kristina. PAUD educators need to provide appropriate stimulation for children according to their needs so that children’s development is not delayed. Mama Kristina started inviting the children to make paper balls to relax their fingers before starting to study. Activities undertaken to stimulate fine motor skills are intended to help children learn to use writing instruments with more ease and less tiredness. PAUD children also begin learning to draw lines and shapes and write letters, numbers, or words.
On the other hand, Mama Kristina is also active as a Posyandu cadre. Mama Kristina’s task as a Posyandu cadre requires her to have a better understanding of early childhood nutrition and help dispel myths that exist in the Kodi community so that they can educate parents and caregivers. Many myths have caused much misunderstanding over the years and unknowingly have contributed to hindering the growth and development of children, especially in the Kodi region. The people of Kodi believed that mothers of newborns should not eat buffalo meat, allegedly that their children do not have fever. The Kodi people think that buffalo meat is “hot” and has coarse fiber, so it is not good for consumption by mothers who have just given birth, because they are afraid it can cause illnesses for the baby.
Another myth believed by local people is that children who live in a hot climate need to be given water from infancy. In fact, giving plain water to newborns is dangerous because babies under the age of 6 months are only allowed to consume mothers’ milk exclusively. Giving water to babies can harm the immature kidneys of babies, so babies are susceptible to water poisoning or water intoxication, flatulence, and diarrhea.
Another myth that is believed by local people is that children who live in hot areas need to be given water from infancy. In fact, giving plain water to newborns is a dangerous action because babies under the age of 6 months are only allowed to consume exclusive breastfeeding. Giving water to babies can harm the baby’s immature kidneys to filter water properly, so babies are prone to water poisoning or water intoxication, flatulence, and diarrhea. This condition, if left unchecked, can affect the growth and development of the baby, and cause illnesses for the baby. Giving water to babies should only be done if the baby is over 6 months old and can already consume solids.
In addition, local people also believe that if a breastfeeding mother goes outside the house for longer than a certain period, for example going to the market or to the garden, she needs to wash her breasts clean before breastfeeding so that the child does not suck the sweat and dirt that sticks to the mother’s breasts. They also have the belief that breast milk needs to be expressed first after traveling because allegedly the milk becomes stale. Of course, these myths can interfere with receiving nutrition for infants and toddlers, as well as being burdensome for breastfeeding mothers.
In a training session on Infant and Child Feeding given to Posyandu cadres, Mama Kristina began to understand some of the mistakes surrounding the myths in the Kodi community so far. Consuming buffalo meat is not a problem for pregnant women as long as it is clean and appropriately cooked. A campaign for exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months has been enacted. Mama Kristina and other Posyandu cadres have also started providing education and dispelling myths about breastfeeding mothers. This information was not only disseminated by Mama Kristina to the Kodi community, including breastfeeding mothers, but also to parents of students at PAUD.
Ensuring the growth and development of children does not only require a good understanding of providing stimulus activities and knowledge that is a requirement for the development of children’s learning processes, but also an understanding of the adequacy of nutrition needed by children to develop physically. PAUD educators and Posyandu cadres are among the key actors in ensuring and overseeing the quality of growth and development of children at an early age. The process of early childhood development is a crucial process in preparing the quality of Human Resources (HR) for future generations. On the other hand, various challenges, and problems in preparing early childhood growth and development are still a long homework, especially in Southwest Sumba. To answer these challenges, WLF took the initiative to carry out programs that focus on early childhood development through various approaches, one of which is through increasing the capacity of PAUD educators and Posyandu cadres. The HI ECD Module Development Program is a program supported by the William & Lily Foundation (WLF) in collaboration with the ADARO Foundation and implemented by ACER Indonesia as the implementing partner. The program, implemented for two years, aims to develop modules that are more responsive to local needs based on learning outcomes using government curriculum modules for HI-ECD service providers.
Written by: ACER Indonesia
Edited by: Mariska Estelita (WLF)