Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Doreen Sioka says about 75 000 children between the ages of 0 and 4 years have been enrolled for Early Childhood Development programmes (ECDs) in Namibia to date.
ECDs and pre-primary education are recognised as having an important impact on the subsequent performance of children in basic education programmes.
In recognition of this, government in its National Development Plan (NDP4) emphasised the importance of ECD.
Sioka reiterated that quality education requires adequate funding to address many challenges facing the system including insufficient human capacity, insufficient learning and teaching materials, inadequately equipped laboratories, libraries and computer rooms with qualified teachers, insufficient infrastructure, such as ECD centres and classrooms, as well as a lack of basic services, such as running water and sanitation.
It is against this background that government through the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the European Union (EU) last week signed a N$400 million funding agreement to advance ECD and pre-primary education in Namibia.
The funding, which will see various programmes, including technical assistance, infrastructure development and capacity building, will be used over the period of four years and will contribute to improving children’s access to ECD facilities and services, expanding the number of pre-primary classes across the country and augmenting quality of care and teaching at the early stages of education.
She thanked the EU for prioritising education and particularly for choosing ECD and pre-primary education as focal areas for support.
“This is crucial early learning stage which requires provision of a good start that lays a strong education foundation to help children develop capacities and their full potential, so that they will later contribute to socio-economic development of our country.
“We cannot afford to miss this opportunity because the burden of early disadvantages can be difficult to reverse,” Sioka noted.
She further implored government and EU officials who will be responsible for managing the funds to expedite the implementation of activities planned under the signed agreement, so that government make optimal use of the funds within the set timeframe.
The programme 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 targets that demonstrate the progress of the 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.
The ministry supports the communities by providing materials to construct community-based ECD caregivers, through training of regional, constituency and ECD centre committee members and by providing learning and teaching materials.
ECD is designed to scale up efforts go promote the concept of early learning, as well as the general care and education of children.
Some of the benefits include stimulation, improved health and nutrition, greater self-confidence and social competence, as it promotes cognitive or education development, as well as community development and participation.
Any person undertaking ECD activities will be required to register his or her activity.