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Why investing in Early Childhood Development matters for your child.

Mum starts with sound; m, Dad starts with sound; d and aunt starts with sound; a. These are usually the words and explanations given by teachers while teaching children at elementary levels. Words and things that the children can relate with are used to teach them while they are taught to understand the basics.

My distant relatives’ daughter of 13 years was brought to stay with my mother and after arriving home, my mother, like any other parent took her to school. This girl, Hanna, not real name was taken to primary three after repeating  primary four in the village for two year.

Even in primary three, she was not still doing well in class. Hanna would come back from school and keep her books in her suit case. No one set an eye on her assignments and she would get hold of her books again the following morning when she was ready to go to school. Hannah had no friends in the neighborhood and neither did she have friends at school. She kept in her cocoon at school and at home.  

This became a little disturbing to everyone at home. We took a step to find out what exactly the problem was that was making Hanna not excel in class. As we looked for possible reasons, we realized that she actually was very interested in school, but her challenge was that she never understood anything in class. She did not know how to read the basic alphabets and numbers. This was not because she did not want to do so, but rather because she did not get the opportunity to go to an Early Childhood Development centre that would trigger her mind to do so.

The only way out was to find an independent teacher to take Hanna through the basics that she missed during her early childhood stage. One year down the road, Hannah became very good at reading and to our amazement she passed with high scores to join primary four in position 20 out of 105 children.

Hannah is not alone, there are thousands of children out there who do not exactly understand what their teachers are teaching in class and no one bothers to find out why they are not passing well. They nevertheless, get to be promoted to the next level under the automatic promotion policy that eventually catches up with them in primary seven where they cannot produce excellent results to enable them join senior one.

 How many of us had the opportunity to go to a Childhood Development centre where the child’s first foundation with long-lasting benefit is laid? The following are the benefits of Early Childhood Development to a child:

Social and Emotional Development: Having your child attend pre-school programme throughout his or her early years allows him or her to develop relationships with fellow children and adults. This provides a sense of security and belonging to the child.

Cognitive Development: Consistency in the pre-school programme significantly impacts on a child's cognitive development. High-quality early childhood development programmes provide developmentally appropriate curricula and enable children to develop specific cognitive skills at the early age.

Language Development:  Language development occurs at a rapid pace in children between the ages of one and five. Children who are secure in their environment and with the right people around them are more likely to engage in frequent, age-appropriate conversations.

The National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy framework recognizes all of these provisions and applauds the role they continue to play in the wellbeing of all Children, especially Children of 0-8. However, due to the multi-disciplinary nature of the needs of a child, there is need for integrated services for holistic and balanced growth and development.

The future of Uganda today lies in the well-being of its children. The prospect of socio-economic transformation of the state rests with investing in the young people of Uganda. Today’s investment in Children is tomorrow’s peace, stability, security, democracy and sustainable development.

 It is only prudent to do so with cheerful hands and hearts!!!

Written by Loice Epetiru, Communication Officer, UCRNN.

 

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How successful has Uganda been in achieving her education targets?

How successful has Uganda been in achieving her education targets?

Since the achievement of independence in 1962, the government of Uganda has been committed to expanding the Education System to enable greater participation. 

In an effort to promote the right of all children to Education, the Government of Uganda made commitments on behalf of the children by signing International and Regional Child Rights Statutory Instruments regarding improving the access, equity and quality of (basic) education. These Statutory Instruments include:

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; Article 28 recognizes the right of the child to education. The state is mandated in particular to make Primary Education compulsory and available free to all, encourage the development of different forms of Secondary Education, including general and Vocational Education, make them available and accessible to every child, and take appropriate measures such as the introduction of free education and offering financial assistance in case of need. Government is obligated to take measures that encourage regular school attendance and reduce school drop-out rates. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child in Article 11(3) as well reiterates this.

The UN Millennium Development Goals declared by world leaders highlights the firm belief of the international community in achieving Universal Primary Education (Goal2) in the developing countries as efforts to alleviate poverty.

At the national level, the 1995 Uganda Constitution Article 30 provides for the right of Education for all persons. 

Despite the aforesaid rosy, well stipulated and well intentioned pledges that the Ugandan government has made, education and most especially quality and access to free and compulsory education in Uganda still has its daunting challenges.

While there has been a marked increase in the number of government sponsored primary and secondary schools over the last few years,  the number of school going age children enrolling for the program rapidly increasing every year, Education Sector in the country is still being marred by the following challenges that should be addressed urgently:-

Dropout rates remain high (especially among girls) and the quality of education provided by government-sponsored schools is still questionable.  According to a recent report by UNESCO, only 53 percent of Ugandan children complete Primary School. 

Government’s failure to resolve the school lunch problem means that afternoon attendance and concentration remain substantially lower than in the morning. 

Teacher attendance still remains a challenge in many UPE and USE Schools in relation to the teacher to pupil ratio which is not a rosy sight to behold. 

Access to Early Childhood Development programme in Uganda is still very low with most of the registered Pre-Primary Schools being privately owned and located in urban centers. Only about 2.6% of Primary entrants attend some form of organized Early Childhood Development Programme (UCRNN: Status and Wellbeing of Children in Uganda 2012). 

Essential to say is the inequality that exists between urban schools and rural schools mainly brought about by quality of infrastructures and man power in urban areas compared to their counterparts. News about the best schools and pupil’s usually fills the TV and radio waves of both national and local stations with newspaper headlines awash with pictures and names of pupils with their schools in the papers. It is always apparent that we see and read statements like; “Urban schools beat rural schools; Northern and Eastern schools, the worst performers in this year’s Examination.

Have we ever wondered why a child in Agago, Kween and Amudat Districts does not even come close to any of the above grades? Are they considered failures? How do they compete with the Kampala and the urban children who have had their foundations grounded in early childhood development and in well-furnished private schools?

One thing the government probably needed to have taken into consideration from the onset of the UPE and USE was to include quality of education for all Ugandan children to coin a phrase like; “A compulsory, free and quality education for all Ugandan Children.”

In light of all the above, the Government of Uganda in a bid to improve quality in UPE schools, should invest more in improving the quality of learning by building more classrooms, training more teachers and providing teaching materials and more importantly, subsidizing lunch in these schools, which will be a great feat in reducing dropout rates and scaling up retention of children in school. 

Just as we draw closer to the commemoration of the National Day of the African Child on the 16th of June 2014 with the theme: A Child Friendly, Quality, Free and Compulsory Education for all Children in Uganda,” It is imperative that the government of Uganda starts to juggle around with a strategy to improve the compulsory and free education by deliberately including quality and access to it.

By Loice Epetiru, Communication Specialist UCRNN.

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