Fight for early childhood education
It is more than a project. It is a consolidated campaign to provide standard services, promote child survival, growth, development and ultimately protection for children from conception to age eight – a critical stage that forms the foundation of children’s future, wellbeing and learning.
It is called Early Childhood Education (ECD) and it is championed by Action Aid Malawi with financial assistance from Roger Federer Foundation.
“Research has shown that children enrolled in ECD programs benefit by receiving formal education before primary school,” argues Assan Golowa, Executive Director for Action Aid in Malawi. He further states that there has been verifiable results that show the impact of ECD on childrens’ learning development.
“According to some studies, children enrolled in these programs are more behaved and have higher IQ scores upon enrolling in primary school than their peers without formal education. Likewise, there is evidence that children enrolled in ECD programs learned quicker than children not enrolled in these programs”.
ECD is a 10-year program which started in 2011 and is expected to wind up in 2021. The program is funded by the Roger Federer Foundation to the tune of $13.5 million to address the challenges faced in Early Childhood Development sector in Malawi such as low number of children accessing services, poor infrastructure, untrained caregivers, poor health and sanitation, poor nutrition, low budgetary support towards ECD sector, weak coordination among ECD stakeholders, weak linkages between ECD centres and primary school. The program is being implemented in the 10 districts of Malawi namely; Chitipa, Rumphi, Ntchisi, Lilongwe, Dedza, Mchinji, Machinga, Neno, Phalombe and Nsanje.
The project adopted a holistic approach, which includes physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual, and cognitive dimensions. The program involves raising awareness among parents and stakeholders on the importance of ECD, construction of model and satellite ECD centers (480), Child friendly toilets and provision of portable water, training of caregivers (4800), provision of incentives for caregivers through revolving fund, promotion of smooth transition of Children from home to Community Based Childcare Center and later to primary school, parenting education on child care practices and advocating for increased ECD budgetary support.
In the 10 years of the program, Action Aid Malawi committed to construct 80 model ECD centers.
“Currently all 80 models have been constructed and over 130,000 Children have accessed quality ECD services over 4800 caregivers have been trained, Children that have graduated from the centres over the years have been monitored and results are clearly showing that they are performing well at primary school than those who did not go through ECD centres”, says Janet Kuyeli, the ECD Project Manager at Action Aid Malawi.
According to Kuyeli, Action Aid Malawi believes in human rights based approach.
“AAM’s role is to empower the communities to claim, secure and enjoy their rights. Therefore, the communities take leading role in all processes. The program supports existing Community Based Child Care (CBCCs), Action Aid Malawi works with government established structures such as the Village Development Committee, Area Development Committee and District Education Committee”.
But is this all our country can do to promote early childhood education? The Executive Director for Action Aid Malawi, Assan Golowa, believes that the success of early childhood education in Malawi requires more support.
“While government and other players are making contribution to the ECD sector, the financial and human resources allocation to the sector needs a lot of boost. There is need for a stronger advocacy and more political will for awareness of parents, motivation of ECD caregivers as well as development of contextual curriculum for our ECD programs. The better prepared a child is before formal schooling the higher the chances of his or her success.