Early Childhood Care and Education
In Turkey, access to early child care and education services is still limited; low income children cannot benefit from these services. ECE services are mostly provided and monitored by the Ministries; based on a single, institution-based model and perceived as preparation for elementary education especially for 5-6 age children. Besides, almost all programs aimed at poor women follow the traditional social services approach, treating them as passive recipients of services. This type of approach prevents these services from spreading to reach impoverished groups that are most in need, using those groups’ creativity and finding alternative methods. In fact, under women’s unrecognized leadership, there are unbelievable efforts and creativity to sustain families and communities.
In some contexts women are considered to be natural educators, but with the spread of social services for children, education came to be seen as too important to be left to mothers and families, but rather the work of experts only, something reflected in existing regulations, and women’s strength in this area was overlooked.
The Foundation for the Support of Women’s Work (FSWW) has been working to promote early childhood education and care for 15 years, mobilizing local resources with women’s leadership, especially in low-income areas. It has opened 23 woman and child centers run by women in Istanbul, the Marmara Earthquake Zone and Southeastern Anatolia with the support of local authorities and the neighborhood. These centers show women can provide quality early childcare and education services through joint efforts, will be able to come together in the public space created to launch initiatives for other social and economic needs and can develop dialogue with local authorities about their priorities. FSWW’s work in this area meets the basic need for early childcare and education services especially for the economically disadvantaged.
According to an evaluation by academics in the educational science department of Yildiz Technical University, the promotion of these services is a model that can be continued and repeated both in terms of assistance to women and the service quality. In this model, which takes the approach of bringing together children, families, educators and the community to create a mutual learning process, all women / mothers are provided a public service on the basis of their initiative and dedication. With families’ and local support and depending on the income level of the region, these programs are 60-80 percent self sufficient. In very low-income neighborhoods in Diyarbakir and Mardin, this rate is much lower, but they still have an important function ensuring the target audience is reached. Supporting these centers with public programs and resources is a cost-effective investment for a public agency (Ministry of Education) aiming to expand its early childhood education services. Furthermore, for those taking the welfare of all sections of society into consideration, it is the most appropriate area to work in from a social responsibility perspective. This model provides an important opportunity to fulfill social responsibility for every party concerned about the welfare of society and children (municipalities, public authorities, universities, the private sector, media etc.) and everyone who believes they have skills to share with children and families. If we say children are our future, believe these future adults will have an important role in the welfare of society and sincerely want these services to reach every child, it is not just the responsibility of the family or the state. Everyone with an interest in society must share it.