Capacity Enhancement for Early Childhood Development in Malawi

The proposed project seeks to support the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare of Malawi whose mandate is to oversee the implementation and delivery of ECDE services in Malawi in order to improve the health, social and living standards of children. ECDE services mostly target children from conception to eight years. The Government developed and launched the ECDE Strategic Plan (2009 to 2014) to scale up ECDE services to reach more children especially in areas not adequately serviced by current outreach programmes.

Author

October 29th, 2012

The proposed project seeks to support the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Welfare of Malawi whose mandate is to oversee the implementation and delivery of ECDE services in Malawi in order to improve the health, social and living standards of children. ECDE services mostly target children from conception to eight years. The Government developed and launched the ECDE Strategic Plan (2009 to 2014) to scale up ECDE services to reach more children especially in areas not adequately serviced by current outreach programmes.

The World Bank supported the implementation of an impact evaluation project with a fast track grant from July 2010 to 2012. The lessons learnt therein are to be used in scaling up quality ECDE services in Malawi. By providing training and creating relevant materials, this project aims at enhancing the capacity of the ECD service providers to provide Malawian children with high quality services in early childhood care that ensure their survival, growth, protection and development that would lead to their active and maximum participation in national development. There are currently over 9,340 ECDE centres known as Community Based Childcare Centres and pre-schools in Malawi. Only 35% of children attend CBCCs and ECDE centers. This leaves 65% of the targeted children with no access to ECDE services.

Most of the 2-5 year children in rural communities lack opportunities for school preparation due to the absence of ECDE centres, while the urban-based children face difficulties to access the private ECDE centres which are not affordable to the majority of the urban population. Caregivers in CBCCs are volunteers who dedicate part of their time to take care of the children. Currently there are 26,888 volunteer caregivers working in ECDE centres, 68% of them are women and only 28% have some basic training in ECDE. ECDE caregivers get inadequate training to prepare them to handle children in ECDE centres as well as preparing them for early primary.

Currently, ECDE centres are of various qualities, requiring standardization and improvement. Efforts to improve the quality and relevance of ECDE services include development and implementation of simple standards, curriculum and tools for the ECDE centres. ECDE infrastructure, too, is generally inappropriate. To improve training there is need to institutionalize ECDE training in government institutions, establish ECDE Resource Centres and model ECDE centres at national and district levels.

The Government of Malawi (GoM) developed the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) as an overarching policy framework to steer the country’s economic growth towards sustainable development. To achieve this, ECDE services are recognised and promoted as an integral part of the country’s development agenda. This is on the understanding that the first years of a child lay the foundation for later learning and socialization and that impressions made during this time determine the quality of life of the child. It is also on the realization that the future of any nation lies in its children and the productivity of a country is dependent on the care and investment it makes to its children.

Furthermore, knowing fully that investing in ECDE enhances children’s survival, growth and development and ultimately contributes to social and economic development of the nation, Malawi has taken great strides to care, protect and support children through the implementation ECDE programmes. Thus, investment in ECDE is a reliable and sound strategy for reducing or eradicating poverty in that it lays a strong foundation for optimum development of children, which in turn prepares them to be productive economically and socially.

While advancing the long term Government goal of eradicating poverty, investing in ECDE ensures that children’s rights are upheld. Again, it cannot be overemphasised that ECDE prepares children for primary education and contributes towards increased school retention and higher levels of attainment in school.

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