The earliest years of a child’s life is crucial to education. Yet, in Ethiopia, early childhood education is too often a footnote in the mission to educate more of the nation’s young.

Not for us. Because since introducing early childhood education into our programs three years ago, we’ve seen the tremendous impact it has on learning. An impact that is making others take notice – including a key regional government that’s invited us to help develop their new pre-primary curriculum.

In our mission, we deal with some startling realities – including that more than 20% of children drop out after just a single year of primary school.

Picture that for a second: your life, with just a single year of school.

To change this reality we have to do more than provide bricks and books. We need to instill a love of learning.

So we’re starting young. We’re building early childhood education classrooms and playgrounds into all our new schools – complete with a Montessori-style approach. We’re training kindergarten teachers and providing a full year of pre-primary education for kids to prepare them for school.

As a result, we’ve seen Grade 1 drop outs decrease from 20% to six percent.

It’s a massive change in a country where just 6.9% of pre-primary children are enrolled in early childhood education – a percentage that drops to practically zero in rural communities.

The Government has hired pre-primary teachers in the past, but has not built centers or developed a curriculum. Now, however, officials are taking notice. The Tigray Region Education Bureau, based in Northern Ethiopia, recently deemed early childhood education a priority, and invited imagine1day to a 20-day workshop to develop a new pre-primary curriculum.

We’ve had a significant influence on the development of that curriculum and will be hosting 46 education experts from the Bureau and teaching colleges to visit our schools first-hand. They’ll learn our approach to early childhood education and apply it in their own districts and organizations.

Our decision three years ago to start investing in early childhood education is turning into a movement. A movement that is ensuring more Ethiopian children have access to quality education.