UNICEF Representative to Namibia Micaela Marques de Sousa says Namibia should ensure that Early Childhood Development (ECD) gets the priority it deserves in order for all Namibian children to get a good start in life.
Speaking at the ECD discussion forum here yesterday, she said though some progress has been made, there is great momentum and potential in Namibia to ensure ECD receives the precedence it deserves.
“Integrated ECD is one of the most rewarding investments that parents, government, communities, private sector, and faith-based and civil society organisations can make for children in Namibia,” said the UNICEF Country Representative.
De Sousa said global research has helped people understand the fact that events in the child’s first few years of life play a crucial role in shaping the lives of these individuals as well as the societies that they live in. “We also know that integrated interventions for children aged 0-8 years are highly effective,” she further explained. According to her, this can break inter-generational cycles of poverty and violence, reduce malnutrition, address social exclusion, and enhance school readiness. “These early interventions include health care, social protection and welfare, early stimulation and positive parenting, as well as pre-school education,” stated the UNICEF head. In other words, she said, almost all social challenges being addressed in Namibia can be strengthened by promoting early childhood development. The resultant challenges include child poverty, poor educational attainment, violence and abuse and the vast inequalities that characterise the current stage of development in Namibia.
“With an integrated pro-poor focus, we can reduce the number of children who are faced with multiple barriers to their optimal development, especially children from poor communities, those with disabilities and other special learning needs, children living in residential care and children subject to abuse and neglect in their homes,”she stressed.
“We can reduce these numbers to zero,” she added.
She said dispite the overwhelming evidence, it is an open secret that investments in early childhood development remain inadequate and ECD programmes are often among the first to be cut in times of budget constraints. “But we cannot continue to neglect the health, protection, social welfare and education imperatives that our very young children deserve,” she said.
She further said when children are denied opportunities to reach their maximum potential, “we are not only causing harm to them – our future generations, but also to our economies that require a skilled and productive workforce, especially if we are to achieve the country set targets in Vision 2030”.
Therefore, she said, we are all accountable to ensure a better start in life for our children.
De Sousa said many children between the ages of 0-6 years in Namibia are not reaching their developmental potential due to poor health and nutrition, poor sanitation facilitates, lack of adequate stimulation and neglect, while many children experience violence and abuse. The forum was attended by various stakeholders from the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture; Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, University of Namibia Department of Educational Psychology and Inclusive Education and researchers from abroad under the theme “Strengthening Integrated Early Childhood Development” focusing on investing in health and nutrition, child and social protection and early learning.