As Malawi was launching the second edition of the national Early Childhood Development (ECD) policy in Lilongwe, some vulnerable children, especially those with special needs were languishing somewhere in the rural areas of the country.
These children which are aged between zero to eight years, are among the 55 percent of those who are yet to be reached in the program.
Save the Children Deputy Country Director Stanley Phiri highlighted the importance of multi-sectoral efforts to provide holistic needs for all the children regardless of their socio-economic status.
“As we do this, let us also remember that our current efforts are only reaching to less than 50 percent children meaning almost half of them, especially those from the most vulnerable households are missing ba situation which worse with children with special needs,” he said.
While acknowledging that the policy is one of the in Sub-Saharan region, UNICEF Malawi Representative Johaness Wedenig said some challenges to facilitate that holistic approach at the service delivery points and Malawi is not an exception.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), in particular goal number four is aimed at ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Target 4.2 of the same goal states that by 2030, the members states should ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.
“The early years of a child’s life is a critical, singular opportunity to positively shape a potential mind, because investments made in integrated ECD contributes to ordered progression of motor, cognitive, language, socia-emotional and self-regulation skills such qw health, nutrition, security and sefty, responsive care giving and early learning,” said Widenig.
He added that positive nurturing care, reducing negative effects on brain and improving children’s growth and development, providing a youth life and a better future for that child, her family and her society.
Minister of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Jean Kalirani said the inaccessibility of ECD services by some children can negatively affect not only the children, but also the country’s future workforce and economic development.
“Eligible children are still not accessing ECD services due to several factors including inadequate funding for the sustainability of CBCCs, lack of commitment by some community members,” she said.
The revised national ECD policy is a valuable resource, as it supports parents to become the best advocates for their children’s early learning, stimulation and development.
Through the Policy a shift has been made from only focusing on centre-based services to a broader spectrum including parenting education and support, transitioning and child protection.
“The policy will ensure that parents and communities are equipped with the necessary tools to support their children’s development. It is also pleasing to note that through this policy, Malawi is geared to improve access from 45 to 75 percent by 2023,” said the minister.
In Malawi, over one million children benefit from Early Childhood Development (ECD) services. ECD services are provided through Community Based Care Centres (CBCC) supported by UNICEF through the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare throughout the country.
Usually, the CBCC’s are run by caregivers who are trained to manage children. Currently there are 32361 caregivers of which 16101 are trained and 16260 are untrained. Most children who benefit from ECD services are either orphans or vulnerable. These children often live with grandparents who are too old to provide for them or too poor.
ECD services provided by CBCC’s therefore give such children an opportunity to develop during their early years of life.
The minister said Malawi is geared to improve access from 45 to 75 percent by 2023.
Since its introduction in 2009; there has been an increase in the number of children accessing ECD from 32% in 2009 to 46.5 % in 2018. This means that currently Malawi has 12, 288 ECD centers, benefitting two million, two hundred thousand children across the country.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :