Meagre budgetary allocation to Early Childhood Development (ECD) and Child Protection in Malawi has irked Mzimba North Member of Parliament (MP) Agnes Nyalonje of People’s Party (PP) who says the situation is leading the country to a broken and rotten future.
Nyasa Times understands that funding for ECD and Child Protection, over the years, stagnated at about 660 million kwacha and 990 million respectively, allocations Nyalonje describes as too little to make serious impact on a huge problem.
In her contribution to Malawi’s 2018/2019 budget in Parliament early this week, the legislator asked government to double ECD and Child Protection funding to at least two billion kwacha each.
“How we treat these children today will determine the type of country we have in 15 to 20 years, will determine whether these children will be able to look after themselves and their families in future, will determine whether they will contribute positively to society or whether they will be pushed into a life of dependency, living hand to mouth, with the associated dangers of drug dependency and alcoholism, violence and crime, and creating a drain on society,” she said.
According to Nyalonje, an investment in young children now will mean that Malawi is preventing future problems and helping ensure the future prosperity and development of the country.
“There is a lot of evidence to show that children’s future behaviour and academic performance are dependent on the type of support and environment provided to them in these early years. It is in these early years that children attain skills such as hand-eye coordination, learn to interact socially with other people, learn to manage their emotions, learn language and communication skills and begin to appreciate logical thought”.
She added: “If we lose the full potential of children in the first years of their lives then we will never fully catch up. An investment in ECD will result in our children attending primary school more socially aware and confident and with a greater chance of success. There will be less repeating and fewer dropouts and this will lead to a more effective primary and secondary school system”.
Apparently, Nyalonje’s fears on lack of financing of ECD and Child Protection are heightened by Malawi’s 19 million population, the bulk of which is made up of the youths and children.
Statistics Nyasa Times has sourced show that under 15 children in the country make up 46% of the population.
About 3 million of these are under 5 and another 3 million between 5 and 9 years old, together representing 1/3rd of the population.
According to UNICEF data, 1 in 3 boys and 1 in 5 girls of these children are exposed to verbal and emotional violence, 2 in 3 boys and 2 in 5 girls are exposed to physical violence, 1 in 5 girls are exposed to sexual violence, and there is also the issue of child exploitation through child labour.
“These are the hard facts that we are dealing with as a society. Unless we address these issues, we must ask ourselves whether in 20 years’ time we will still be able to call Malawi the Warm Heart of Africa,” Nyalonje wound up her arguments.
Most of Malawi’s ECD facilities are in sorry state, lacking play materials and many other necessities that would inspire children to spend their time.
Care givers are working voluntarily, lacking motivation to nourish their spirited passion for childcare.
However, in his address when he opened the budget meeting of Parliament about a month ago, Malawi’s President, Peter Mutharika said his government cares for and values children.
“We have therefore revised the National Early Child Development Policy to facilitate early childhood development services for all our children,” Mutharika told Malawi’s 193 strong member National Assembly.
According to the President, Government has constructed 141 Community Based Childcare Centres across the country and trained over 14, 000 caregivers.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :