“When I submitted my TKN Niyat in 2007, I had no idea how things would transpire over the years,” says Dr. Almina Pardhan upon reflecting on the success of the Early Child Development program that she helped implement in five countries across Asia in collaboration with numerous Jamati and AKDN institutions.
Parwaaz, meaning taking off in Urdu, began as a pilot programme in 2014, when Dr. Pardhan was a member of the Council for Pakistan. It is a 25-hour parent-child programme for children 6 to 36 months old and their parents, based on best practice models from around the world that leverage the impact of having parents and children participate in enjoyable, interactive sessions to support physical, cognitive, language and social development.
After scaling the first iteration of the programme to multiple sites across Pakistan through Master Trainers, Dr. Pardhan was asked to take on a TKN assignment in Moscow, Russia, to replicate a contextualized model, followed by a similar training in Beirut for the Syrian context. Most recently, she is assisting with rollout of the programme in Afghanistan and Tajikistan, where Early Child Development has been identified as a critical need.
Each iteration of the programme is rooted in country-specific languages and materials, integrating local traditions and stories into the curriculum to make it more accessible and relevant for families. In Tajikistan, for example, dance is an important custom that is being incorporated into the children’s learning experience.
Dr. Pardhan’s team has worked closely with the Aga Khan University Human Development Programme, which has worked extensively in rural and urban communities with parents and children under 3 years old, to identify contextually relevant activities for the programme. This has been among the many partnerships between institutions, including National Councils, Aga Khan Education Boards / Aga Khan Education Service, Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards, Aga Khan Health Boards / Aga Khan Health Service, Aga Khan Foundation and other AKDN institutions, to enable a holistic, comprehensive and culturally relevant programme for each child.
“The specialization and facilitation of each contributing institution’s mandate within and across countries in terms of health, education, nutrition, ethics and enabling conducive physical spaces, has been critical to be able to scale the program to this level,” she describes.
Dr. Pardhan has been Faculty in the area of Early Childhood Education and Development at The Aga Khan University Institute for Educational Development in Karachi, Pakistan, since 2004, and was the ECD Coordinator at the Institute for Ismaili Studies from2015-2017.
“By being able to apply my professional passion through my TKN assignment, I’ve learned about the contexts of child development in other countries, and how significant 100% access to ECD is for all children as part of their overall development trajectory and life-course. . It is a difficult feeling to describe - this experience has been a real blessing,” expresses Dr. Pardhan.