The government through the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the European Union (EU) signed a N$400 million funding agreement towards early childhood development (ECD) and pre-primary education in Namibia.
The funding, which will see various programmes being supported, including technical assistance, infrastructure development and capacity building, will be executed over a period of four years.
The funding will contribute to improving children’s access to ECD facilities and services, expand the number of pre-primary classes across the country and augment quality of care and teaching at the early stages of education.
Signing the agreement on Monday were NPC Director General Tom Alweendo and EU Ambassador to Namibia Hana Hybaskova.
Hybaskova stressed the importance of ECD and pre-primary education, saying it’s much more than education: it’s a vital tool to target one of the most serious challenges Namibia faces. This, she says, includes the high-income inequality and social disparity that exist in the country.
Globally, she said, ECD is recognized social mobility, and with immediate effect decreases social disparities.
ECD is a distinct way of assisting and empowering previously disadvantaged social, ethnic and religious groups globally. This, the ambassador said, leads to rapid positive effects on social inclusion and social stability.
“Children who miss out on ECD education also have much higher chances of dropping out. This makes ECD more vital socially than secondary or even university education,” she noted. According to her, ECD is no doubt also in line with key strategies and targets of the Harambee Prosperity Plan and to achieve objectives such as social inclusiveness, social equality, job creation and the eradication of poverty. She commended the Namibian government for its commitment and prioritization of ECD and pre-primary education in its development agendas, programmes and budgetary allocations.
She revealed the N$400 million funding would be made available as budget support, with specific aims, objectives and performance indicators as agreed between the EU and Namibia.
This assistance, she says, will include among others, expanding pre-primary education through additional construction and renovation of classes, and supporting the construction of an increased number of free, public, strategically located ECD centres that will focus on regions and constituencies with the most disadvantaged children.
It will also include the development of additional models of subsidies to edu-carers, provision of teaching and learning materials in all ECD centres and pre-primary education classes, support the setting of learning assessment and education standards in pre-primary and ECD, and support the development of a continuous curriculum, research and professional development of teaching staff in such schools and centres. On his part Alweendo applauded the EU for their continued support in education.
“Education is most important in terms of social development. Over the years, we focused more on improving more on the access of education because of our past history where people were deprived of education. We also had to start looking at the quality of education for our young people. We agreed that early childhood development can improve the quality of our education, especially for those in rural areas where they don’t have any other access to information that can help them when they start primary school,” Alweendo said.
He is hopeful ECD will be accessible to all children countrywide, saying the quality of education at such levels was never given attention.
Alweendo therefore called on more qualified teachers to be enrolled at ECD level – unlike in the past when parents would volunteer to teach little ones due to lack of qualified teachers.
The funding consists of a non-refundable grant awarded to the government and 90 percent of the funds will be spent as budget support where annual payments are made by the EU to the government based on the achievement of a number of mutually agreed verifiable indicators that demonstrate the progress and success of the funding programme.
The remaining 10 percent of the funds are earmarked for capacity development, with the Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture and the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare being the direct beneficiaries.