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Promoting Early Childhood Development through a Public Programme: Wawa Wasi in Peru

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Author: 
Santiago Cueto
Gabriela Guerrero
Juan Leon
Alvaro Zevallos
Claudia Sugimaru
Affiliation: 

Grupo de Análisis para el Desarrollo, or GRADE (Cueto, Guerrero, Sugimaru, Zevallos); Young Lives International (Cueto); Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (Cueto); Pennsylvania State University (Leon)

Publication Date

July 1, 2009

This paper presents the results of a Young Lives study into the impact and perceptions of the Programa Nacional Wawa Wasi, a Peruvian government programme for impoverished children aged 6-48 months. The paper presents and discusses information on the subsequent development of a sample of children who went to Wawa Wasi in comparison to children who did not participate. It also provides qualitative information on the implementation of the programme and on ways key actors believe the functioning of Wawa Wasi could be improved.

As part of the programme, children spend 5 days a week at a Wawa Wasi centre, where they are assisted by a caregiver selected from the local community called a "Mother-Carer" ("Madre Cuidadora"). In addition to receiving 3 meals per day (created by nutritionists) and participating in health checks (height, weight, and vaccination status), the children take part in early childhood learning that emphasises development in the motor, cognitive (including linguistic), affective, and social domains (including identity). Each centre plans activities and has toys and learning materials appropriate to different ages. They also have a developmental chart with several milestones to be filled out monthly for each child. The overall approach sees each child as the main agent in his/her own development and not as a passive learner of lessons taught by the Mother-Carer of the Wawa Wasi. Wawa Wasi seeks to promote the potential of each child individually. Each centre is expected to incorporate local customs and traditions in promoting children's development.

This report includes data from these sources: the first round of the project (August-December 2002), which provides information about the children who were aged 6-18 months at enrolment, their families, and communities; and, secondly, quantitative and qualitative data gathered between May and June 2006 (including semi-structured interviews with all stakeholders (Mother-Carers, Field Coordinators, members of the Management Committees and mothers from treatment and contrast families). To be assigned to the contrast group, a child should not have participated in the Wawa Wasi programme or any other public or private programme until the age of 3. To be assigned to the treatment group, a child had to have participated in the Wawa Wasi programme for at least 6 months continuously. The effect of participating in the programme is estimated as the difference in outcome between the treatment and contrast group. The outcomes evaluated in the study were psychomotor development (encompassing fine motor coordination, gross motor coordination, and verbal ability), and time in a pre-school programme. (It was expected that children who had attended a Wawa Wasi would be more aware of the importance of pre-school and hence would send their own children there.)

The results suggest that children who have spent at least 6 months at a centre have similar indicators in gross motor, language, and fine motor development to children who have stayed at home. That said, interviews with several key actors indicated a positive outcome: centres are environments where children are kept safe and fed nutritious meals, freeing mothers of worries and enabling them to work or study. However, Wawa Wasi's goal of improving children's development is not sufficiently prioritised. According to researchers, there is a need for Wawa Wasi managers to strengthen early learning components of the programme, to enhance the reading and writing skills of those who provide care, to provide Mother-Carers with enhanced and more frequent training on how to provide cognitive and motor stimulation, and to recognise the dedication of paid carers and volunteers who have contributed to Wawa Wasi's success.

Source: 

Zunia website, June 9 2010.

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