Monika Nabaro is a primary school teacher in one of the most picturesque schools in Fiji. Her Classroom sits atop a crest between a backdrop of the country’s luscious green foliage with a panoramic view of crystal blue waters.

This stunning location is where Mrs Nabaro teaches the future brains of the country that, according to her, are getting smarter every year.

“Actually this year I have been telling the children ‘you children have been giving me a lot of help and you are getting very fast’. They are coming up fast.”

“Like for co-ordination they are able to write their ABC which in past years when they haven’t been to preschool, I find it very difficult when it comes to writing. The recognition isn’t there but for these ones they have recognise and express it on paper”

Children who attend her class are from villages peppered along the coastline and Mrs Nabaro says since they have had access to attend preschool their capabilities in the classroom have improved dramatically.

“For me, as a teacher, I really am eager to teach and teach and teach and these children have already been prepared mentally and they really help me too for us to move together so they can build up to be a successful person in life.”

One of these communities is Kalokolevu Village and it is here where Save the Children Fiji worked with the community to establish an Early Childhood Centre (preschool). This centre provides children with the basic skills needed to succeed in formal schooling such as their ABC’s and coordination.

This year 10 of the 28 students in Mrs Nabaro’s classroom are from this community preschool centre and she said these children are showing they are cognitive and developed for class 1 students.

“These children pick up (things) very quickly and the development is very steady over the year and I also see as they move up they get a lot of concepts that we teach. They grasp it very fast and move on very fast with their learning inside and outside,” she said.

6-year-old Ateca is in her third term of Class 1 in Mrs Nabaro’s classroom and said moving up to the ‘big school’ was easy because she already had friends.

“My friends would always play together at that school (preschool) and now they do it here,” she said.

This interaction is really important as Mrs Nabaro said it has helped remove the fear children have for schooling.

“The impact of a child not going to preschool is the child has that fear. I see it. If they go to preschool that fear is not there so they learn freely and open up very fast for whatever is there for us to give them,” she said.

She explains children who don’t attend preschool are usually isolated at the start of school and find it harder to socialise.

“They sometimes get withdrawn and they find it very difficult to interact and mingle but after a while they begin to build up that trust,” she said.

Mrs Nabaro has no doubt early childhood education should be free and accessible to children no matter how remote their villages or community is. She said she still tries to convince parents on the need to send their children to preschool.

“I would tell them it must be compulsory for the child to go there (preschool) in order to learn these basic skills before they come into class one and I have been telling them and emphasising they must take their children, for them to develop before coming into my class.”

Image: Ateca, Leone and Ilisapeci with teacher Monika Nabaro