Early Childhood Centers (ECC), Education for Development
, was born as a joint project between ALAS, the Government of Buenos Aires and the Spanish International Cooperation Agency for Development (AECID). The main objective was to ensure growth and healthy development of vulnerable children, from 45 days old up to 4 years old. This alliance provided technical, financial and human resources to renovate existing infrastructure and make them fully functional specifically for Early Childhood Centers (ECC) located in neighborhood with high rates of poverty and destitution. The chosen strategy was to select existing kindergardens and soup kitchens to be renovated and fully equipped in order to transform them into high quality ECCs taking into account the specific characteristics of the city of Buenos Aires.
Between 2009 and 2011, thirteen centers were renovated and fully equipped thanks to the funds granted by ALAS ($1.2 million USD), AECID ($600,000 Euros) and the leadership of the Ministry of Social Development. These 13 centers are located in: VVilla Soldati; Floresta; Bajo Flores Villa 1,11,14,21,24; Villa Lugano; La Boca; Villa 21-24; Barracas Villa 21, 24; Chacarita; Cildañez; Constitución; Parque Avellaneda Villa 6 Cildañez; Villa Lugan; Villa 19 and INTA. Jointly working with the Ministry of Social Development, ALAS actively participated during the development and implementation of the program: coordinating, supervising and publicizing the launch, progress and successful results of the project through forums and in international events. An additional aspect of the project included technical assessment in order to provide continuous improvement and assure quality in the services. This was especially challenging given the fact that the program created a transition from primary care programs to models of comprehensive quality care.
Today, the 13 renovated centers provide integrated health care, early stimulation, early education and nutritional assistance to approximately 1,320 children, an increase in coverage of more than 20% for children under age five in southern Buenos Aires. It is important to highlight that the Government has increased the coverage to 4,800 children in 40 ECC, in a progressive and committed way (July 2013).
Early Childhood Centers, Education for Development, is a pilot program that has evolved, showing the local government’s commitment to early childhood education. Due to its positive outcome, ALAS is seeking to replicate this experience in other Latin American countries, with the support of different allies.