Enhancing Equitable Access to Quality Early Childhood Development in Sri Lanka

Jeanne A. Curley

Bank Group Contribution

The Early Childhood Development Project is financed by an International Development Association (IDA) Credit of US$50 million to support the GoSL’s ECD initiatives.


The Government of Sri Lanka leveraged funds through the World Bank to improve access to quality ECD services. Implementation was fostered through joint planning and implementation support, mutually reinforcing the commitment to the project. Specifically, concerted support was provided by the following key stakeholders:

— The External Resources Department (ERD) with the National Planning Department (NPD).

— The Children’s Secretariat of the new State Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-schools and Primary Education, School Infrastructure and Education Services that houses the Project Management Unit and playing a leading role in project implementation.

— The Plantation Human Development Trust (PHDT), which is responsible for implementing project activities in the Plantation Sector.

— Provincial and District level administrations supporting the Children Secretariat’s efforts to ensure that the Facilities Improvement Grants are received and well executed.

— Teachers and administrators of public and private ECD Centers who provide timely and reliable care of the children in their care.

— Communities and parents lending their support and commitment to maintaining and improving infrastructure facilities.

Moving Forward

The high level of government commitment, and the use of country systems and processes are key factors that will contribute to the project’s sustainability. Despite changes in the government over the five years of project implementation, GoSL has shown its continued commitment to the project and early childhood development by setting up a special State Ministry of Child Affairs with its own budget to administer ECD activities. In addition, GoSL has allocated resources in the budget for nutritional support to expectant mothers to help address issues related to early childhood nutrition. The project has helped the government to institutionalize some key reforms such as the revised curriculum framework and child development standards for teaching and learning.


In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a key concern of the Project Management Unit was the design, functionality, and availability of the hand washing units in ECD centers , the associated environmental aspects, demonstrating to parents that ECD centers can be safe early learning places for their children, and providing infrared thermometers and hand sanitizers.

‘A child friendly wash basin unit and a Thermometer to identified preschools (on need basis) as a COVID – 19 disaster immediate management activity was commenced during the COVID lock down period itself.

We have covered all Child Development Centers in plantations and 3,000 more preschools island-wide by now. The ECD project will extend this support to a further 7,000 preschools in all districts…We intend to inculcate the good habit of hand washing among children while we do our best to prevent the spread of this Global Pandemic.’

–Ravi Nanayakkara, M.D., Project Manager, Early Childhood Development Project, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Pre-School & Primary Education, School Infrastructure & Education Services.

‘I am Choolani Silva from Little Kids Preschool. The children attending my school comes from low income families, and their parents are not able to afford any of the safety equipment necessary to run the preschool. Therefore, I give my thanks for this valuable donation of wash basins and Non-Contactable Infrared Thermometers by the World Bank Early Childhood Development Project to help us start the school and run it with proper safety measures in place. I send thanks again from the bottom of my heart to all the officials at Early Childhood Development Project for this donation.’

— Ms. Choolani Silva, ECD Teachers, Little Kids Preschools, Kalutara District.

‘After months of global pandemic outbreak, we would like to thank Early Childhood Project in Plantation for the generous support extended to our community. The Hand Washing Units, Sanitizers, Thermometers, Face Masks are all non- commercial distribution made to us, played a major role in preventing, transmitting of COVID-19 in Plantation, specially our Children, Parents and Care takers as well, and made sure they are protected at this crisis time. In short, the ECDP Project assisted and led this initiative well to balance the uncertain situation in the long run for which we are grateful.’

– Mr. G. Sajith Udara de Silva, Estate Manager, Miriswatte Estate, Namunukula Plantation

‘We usually see wash basins and thermometers and such facilities given to privileged schools. Providing an underserved school like ours these essential wash basins and thermometers so that our children can start their schooling means so much to us. We as parents can now send our children to school without fear of the virus spreading to our children. For ensuring the safety of our children and helping to continue their education in these hard times, we sincerely thank the Early Childhood Development Project…’

— Mrs. Dabodini, Parent, Preschool: Murugun Preschool; Batticaloa District, Kovil Poraithevupattu Division.

‘Due to the spread of Corona Virus, preschools were closed on March 2020. On 17th August the preschools were allowed to open, but only with necessary safety equipment and measures in place. By generously providing our preschool with wash basins and Non-Contactable Infrared Thermometers, Early Childhood Development Project has enabled us to open our preschool for our children to attend within a safe and secure environment. For this timely donation I wish to send my sincere appreciation to the ECD Project.’

— Head Teacher Ms. J. Reheema, Al Asthar Preschool, Anuradhapura District, Horopathana Division.

Distribution to ECD centers is ongoing in the non-plantation and plantation sectors.

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