Counties should allocate more resources to ECDE

Thursday, June 16th, 2022 00:00 | By
Former Kakamega first lady Priscillah Oparanya talking to ECDE pupils at Hirumbi Primary School. PHOTO/PD/Courtesy

As the world marks the International Day of the African Child today we will be celebrating the achievements made to ensure children on this continent get access to justice and quality education.

This year’s theme is appropriately wrapped around Access to a Child-Friendly Justice System in Africa.

The annual event has been celebrated since 1991, when it was first initiated by the Organisation of African Unity to honor those who participated in the Soweto Uprising in 1976. It also raises awareness of the continuing need for improvement of the education provided to children.

It aims at raising awareness for the situation of children in Africa and on the need for continuing improvement in education. It encourages people’s spirit of abundance to share something special with a child.

On this day, governments, civil society groups, international organisations and other stakeholders gather to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing the full realisation of the rights of children in Africa.

This day comes at a critical time in Kenya when the country is deep in the electioneering period. It is that time in our politics when we get to choose leaders of the next five years. And as expected, the politicians are all over campaigning.

We have heard those who are promising heaven on earth especially on the education front. In one of the party manifestos, schoolgirls have been promised free pads while some have promised to give children in day schools a hot meal.

Others have made fundamental proposals on providing free education from primary to tertiary level. Many more promises will come our way ahead of August 9.           

The Day of the African Child also comes at a time budgeting in the counties is underway. Outgoing MCAs and governors have played their role in setting the ball rolling. Those elected on August 9 must expedite the remaining part of the budgeting process. Electoral promises on children’s education are welcome, but have to be real.

Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) is a devolved function. It is fine for political parties to make lofty promises on what they will do about education, but as long as they fail to factor in that this role belongs to county governments, they will be failing to set a firm foundation for Kenyan children.

According to Theirworld, an international charity that mobilises resources for early childhood education, children who go through quality pre-primary education are more likely to have better outcomes in school and are unlikely to drop out.

But how many of our counties are investing in ECDE so that our children get the best foundation as they embark on the education journey? Budgets for the early learners is lumped together with that of technical and vocational institutions.

Where attempts are made to have ECDE in the budget, the only outstanding part is the construction of classrooms and perhaps an office or ablution block. But this level of education requires much more than physical facilities.

Integrated ECDE learning centres are perfect opportunities to provide learning materials and resources, teachers, specific health and nutrition as well as sanitation.

Nutrition is a key component for early learners especially in poor remote regions. It ensures children are kept in school as they are assured of a meal. It also frees parents and guardians to participate in economic activities that improve their lifestyles.

Nutrition goes hand in hand with accessibility. Counties have a responsibility to have the institutions in areas where the learners can easily get there without putting lives at risk or being situated in far off places that discourage their parents and guardians from sending their children.

But integrated ECDE learning centres can’t be achieved with the paltry sums of money that counties are injecting in the sector. There is need for long term investment in high quality ECDE for all children to bridge the gap that exists across the country. The push to have counties allocate at least 10 per cent of their budget in this sector is long overdue.

The public must take keen interest and participate in county matters, including budgeting and allocation of resources especially on ECDE for progress of the whole community.

The Global Partnership of Education (GPE) summit which President Uhuru Kenyatta and British PM Boris Johnson co-hosted last year in London, Kenya committed to develop specific investments to meet the goal of having at least 10 per cent of education budgets go to ECDE.

— The writer is an Early Childhoodeducation advocate

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