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«ECD Policy Development and Implementation in Africa Alan Pence Early Childhood Development Virtual University, University of Victoria, Victoria, ...»

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Early Childhood and Family Policy Series

N° 9 - 2004

ECD Policy Development and

Implementation in Africa

Alan Pence

Early Childhood Development Virtual University,

University of Victoria,

Victoria, British Columbia

UNESCO Education Sector

ECD Policy Development and Implementation in Africa

Alan Pence

Early Childhood Development Virtual University,

University of Victoria,

Victoria, British Columbia


Early Childhood and Family Policy Series n°9 November, 2004 The author is responsible for the choice and presentation of the facts contained in this document and for the opinions expressed therein, which are not necessarily those of UNESCO and do not commit the Organization.

Contributions to this series are welcomed and should be addressed for review to Early Childhood and Family Policy series, at the address given below.

Additional copies of this monograph can be obtained from:

Early Childhood and Inclusive Education Section ED/BAS/EIE, UNESCO 7 Place de Fontenoy 75352 Paris 07 SP, FRANCE http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=2905&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=html (ED-2004/WS/47) Table of Contents I. Introduction 5 II. International Context 5 III. Events and Context in Sub-Saharan Africa 7 IV. ECD Policy Development in Selected Sub-Saharan countries 10 ADEA-WGECD 10 Early Childhood Development Virtual University 14 Observations from Namibia and broader perspectives on ECD Policy motivation, development, implementation and program delivery in Sub- 19 Saharan Africa References 22


ECD Policy Development and Implementation in Africa I. Introduction1 Early Childhood Care, Education and Development (ECD)2 is a topic whose time has arrived—in Africa as well as internationally. This monograph will briefly explore some of the broader international and African antecedents to that ‘arrival,’ before focusing more specifically on processes involved in the development and implementation of ECD policies in various countries of Africa. The monograph does not focus on the content of policies, but on activities associated with their development, promulgation or implementation.

The genesis for the monograph was work undertaken by members of the African Early Childhood Development Virtual University (ECDVU) as part of their applied web- and seminar-based post-secondary studies. The members of this pilot cohort were nominated by country committees, having demonstrated years of commitment to enhancing child well-being in their home countries. All are full-time employees in the broad field of ECD with eight to 25plus years of service. Their ECD backgrounds are purposefully diverse, with responsibilities ranging from program development and implementation, through policy development, to ECD education, to name a few. The cohort participants share a common commitment to enhancing child development through leadership development, country and regional capacity building and network enhancement—the objectives of the ECDVU.

Each of the participants completed, in addition to applied coursework, a major project or thesis as a culminating activity of the three-year program (see http://www.ecdvu.org/ for a complete list of the countries, the participants and the major projects or theses completed by the participants as part of their involvement in the pilot ECDVU M.A. program). Each completed these studies while continuing with full-time ECD employment in their home country. The project and thesis topics were determined based on professional interests and ‘on-the-ground’ needs in each country. In some countries, ECD policy development or implementation were key foci of interest. It is that set of studies, plus the small number of other ECD policy development and implementation studies that have recently been undertaken in Africa, that forms the core of this monograph. Before considering those various studies, a brief international and a more detailed regional ECD context will be provided.

II. International Context While ECD has a long history, with replicated early childhood group care and education programs moving across continents as early as the 1820s (Infant Schools), this monograph will take only a small slice of that timeline: international ECD since the UN adoption of the Convention of the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1989.

The period around 1990 marked significant changes for children and for ECD internationally. On November 20, 1989 the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was formally adopted by the UN General Assembly; signing commenced on January 26, 1990, and 61 countries signed the document that day. By September, 1990 20 countries had ratified the This monograph is dedicated to the hard work and commitment of the first African ECDVU cohort (2001-2004) and the ECDVU team, instructors and donors who made it possible. It is through them, and those who share their commitment, that the well-being of children in Africa will be advanced. Also, a note of appreciation to Judith Evans for having read and commented on an earlier draft of the monograph.

Various acronyms are used to refer to the holistic intent embraced by early childhood care, education and development. Other terms include: Early Childhood Care and Education/ECCE (UNESCO), Early Childhood Education and Care/ECEC (OECD), Early Childhood Care for Development/ECCD (Consultative Group), and Early Childhood Development/ECD (World Bank, ADEA).


Convention, bringing it into international law. It had been “ratified more quickly and by more countries than any previous human rights instrument” (UNICEF, We the Children, September 2001, p. 1).

In March of 1990 the World Conference on Education for All (EFA) was held in Jomtien, Thailand, and at that conference the importance of early childhood development was underscored as a crucial part of basic education. The first four words under Article 5 provided ECD with a place at the table: “Learning begins at birth. This calls for early childhood care and initial education” (World Declaration on Education for All, Jomtien, UNESCO website). For many years ECD had been the ‘invisible child,’ hidden behind the ‘education family,’ disconnected from the recognition its ‘older siblings,’ like primary, secondary and tertiary education, had received as key components in international development. Through ECD recognition at Jomtien, the rapid ratification of the CRC, and the World Summit for Children held in New York on September 28 and 29, 1990, the early years began to move ‘out from the shadows’ to a place of recognition in its own right on the international stage.

Robert Myers’ publication of The Twelve Who Survive in 1992 began to refocus international attention from issues of child survival to a more encompassing understanding of what the increasing percentage of children who survived required in order to thrive. Myers’ seminal volume was an advocacy as well as a policy and programming tool.

In 1994 the Carnegie Institute’s Task Force on Meeting the Needs of Young Children opened another key front in efforts to better understand the needs and challenges of early development. With their report Starting Points: Meeting the Needs of Our Youngest Children, the importance of the early years as a key period of brain development became a central focus for discussions regarding child development. The World Bank was quick to pick up the implications of the Carnegie Report for international development: healthy child development as a key to broader social and economic development. In 1996 Mary Eming Young of the World Bank published Early Child Development: Investing in the Future, with the importance of brain development featured as a lead point. At approximately the same time, the first of what would become a rapidly growing set of loans for ECD development in various parts of the world were approved by the World Bank. By the late 1990s UNICEF was moving towards placing Integrated ECD as a centerpiece of its activities as well, with a strong focus on the CRC.

In less than ten years ECD had moved from the periphery of concern for all but a few international donors, such as the Bernard van Leer Foundation and a few others who had made significant contributions to ECD as early as the 1970s, to become a major topic on a significant number of donors’ and international organizations’ lists of priority issues.

An Education for All follow-up conference to Jomtien took place in Dakar, Senegal in April of 2000. At the Dakar World Education Forum the profile of ECD was further enhanced as the delegates committed themselves to a number of goals, the first of which was “expanding and improving early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children” (New Global Commitment to Basic Education, p. 2, World Education Forum 2000, UNESCO website).

A ten-year follow-up to the World Summit for Children was scheduled for New York in 2001, but was postponed as a result of the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. The General Assembly’s Special Session on Children took place instead in May, 2002 and resulted in the publication of We the Children (UNICEF, September 2001) and A World Fit for Children (UNICEF, 2002a, which contains a copy of the Millennium Development Goals [MDGs], Special Session on Children documents, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child [CRC]).

We the Children summarizes much of the international work that had taken place during the intervening decade regarding children’s developmental statistics. Sadly, it also notes the increasing challenges to achieving child well-being in many parts of Africa due to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, civil unrest and wars, refugee situations, and other challenges.


III. Events and Context in Sub-Saharan Africa In addition to a general ECD background and set of events impacting virtually all areas of the ‘Developing’/Majority World, regions have their own more specific contexts. Sub-Saharan Africa will be briefly considered in this section, while the experiences and contexts for certain specific African countries will be developed in Section III. A brief list of key ECD events (Figure 1) will serve as a background for a limited elaboration of several of the themes and activities.

Figure 1. Brief Overview of Key ECD Events in Africa

Brief Overview of Key ECD Events in Africa

• 1971: Bernard van Leer Foundation (BvLF) supports development of ECD in Kenya through the Kenya Institute of Education.

• 1970s: BvLF supports Educare in South Africa, offered through NGOs.

• 1970s and 80s: Other donors and INGOs come forward in various African countries.

• 1990: Many African countries are quick to sign the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Mali President Traore is co-host for the Summit, and Senegalese President Diouf is also a key figure in promoting the Summit.

• 1993: EFA International Forum in New Delhi puts ECCD on the agenda. The development of ECCD in Kenya is presented as a case study.

• 1993: October Meeting of the Donors for African Education (now the Association for the Development of Education in Africa, ADEA) created a Working Group on Early Childhood Development (WGECD). The WGECD was first under the leadership of UNICEF, then the Government of the Netherlands.

• 1994: The Early Childhood Development Network in Africa (ECDNA) begins.

• Mid-1990s: World Bank credits in Africa (Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria [limited], Eritrea).

• 1994: Joint Training Initiative, Bernard van Leer Foundation.

• 1996: Ouagadougou Regional Seminar on Early Childhood in Francophone Africa – UNESCO.

• 1996: Creation of Reseau Africain Francophone Prime Enfance (Early Childhood Francophone African Network) through UNESCO and UNICEF.

• 1996: Setting the Pace for Lifelong Learning: Priorities and Strategies for Africa – Mauritius (attended by 55 African countries). Part of EFA follow-up. Outcome document: Guidelines Towards the Development of ECD in Africa.

• 1997: Regional ECD Training Institute held in Namibia. UNICEF support with University of Victoria and University of Namibia co-organizing.

• 1997: Colletta and Reinhold (World Bank) assessment of the expenditure on education in Africa and the percentage of education budgets allocated to ECD (only 4 of 25 had any expenditure and those 4 had minimal expenditure).

• 1998: Seventh Conference of Ministers of Education of African Member States (MINEDAF VII) accepts recommendation noting that “clear policies be formulated to promote early childhood education and development” (Report of the VII Conference, April 1998).

• 1998: UNESCO and UNICEF-Cote d’Ivoire fund and help facilitate a networking meeting in Francophone Africa.

• 1998: Regional ECD Training Institute held in The Gambia (UNICEF with University of Victoria and the World Bank).


• 1999 to the present: African International ECD Conference series (1999-2005):

o 1999: 1st African International ECD Conference, Kampala, Uganda o 2002: 2nd African International ECD Conference, Asmara, Eritrea o 2005: 3rd African International ECD Conference, Accra, Ghana

• Late-1990s: UNICEF shifts to greater ECD emphasis (IECD).

• 2000, January: Funding received from the World Bank, Norwegian Educational Trust Fund to develop the ECDVU program. Delivery (with multiple donors) commences August 2001.

• 2000, April: World Education Forum held in Dakar, Senegal (10-year follow-up to Jomtien Conference and EFA initiative). “Dakar EFA goals are intended as an “education wing” of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations, also adopted in 2000” (NEPAD Education Sector Framework, draft, February 2004, p. 9).

• 2000-2001: ADEA-WGECD policy case studies carried out in Ghana, Namibia and Mauritius, plus a questionnaire sent out to 49 African countries (33 responses=70%).

• 2001, May: Cairo, Africa Fit for Children document. Pan African Forum for Children, Africa Common Position, Cairo Declaration and Plan of Action.

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