|© Courtesy of CERID Nepal|
|Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal Dr. Baburam Bhattarai (centre, in black hat) visits displays at the early childhood development conference in Kathmandu.|
By Rupa Joshi
KATHMANDU, Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, 13 December 2012 – A two-day national early childhood development (ECD) conference concluded in Kathmandu with a strong call from the 400 participants for increased investment for ECD, and for the establishment of a high-level national body for necessary coordination and convergence.
The theme of the conference was ‘Ensuring holistic early childhood development for all young children’. Its aim was to sensitize policy-level actors on the importance of an integrated approach, and the need for increased investment for ECD. Presenters from Bangladesh and India joined their Nepalese counterparts and highlighted the crucial role played by ECD in making a successful transition to school for all children, especially those from disadvantaged households.
Representatives highlighted the remarkable progress made in ECD and children’s school readiness in recent years in the country.
Education for all
The programme was inaugurated by Prime Minister of Nepal Dr. Baburam Bhattarai, who stressed the importance of ECD for the development and prosperity of the country. He highlighted that various studies in child psychology had shown that the mental status of children under 8 years old was very sensitive and important, and underlined the need to formulate a National Plan on child development.
“Early integrated interventions in nutrition, early stimulation, maternal health, parenting and school readiness help to reduce inequity,” said UNICEF Nepal Representative Hanaa Singer at the opening ceremony. “The holistic nature of ECD demands integrated interventions systemically, as all the different development areas – physical, cognitive, social – are so strongly interrelated.”
|© Courtesy of CERID Nepal|
|UNICEF Representative Hanaa Singer delivers remarks at the opening session of the conference.|
Ms. Singer stressed the need to make qualitative ECD facilities available for every Nepalese child, from all strata of society, regardless of her or his geographic, social or economic background. “So many children are already accessing and benefiting from ECD services,” she said. “But providing quality services and making them more accessible to those children that need them more – the most marginalized children – would be like adding ‘fragrance to gold,’ as you say here in Nepal.”
Toward a holistic programme
Following two days of deliberations and discussions, the participants recommended setting up, strengthening and expanding a multi-sectoral ECD plan with increased investment in ECD, as well as establishing a high-level national body to coordinate different ministries at the national level. They also stressed the need to strengthen public–private partnerships for holistic programme delivery, and the need for the Ministry of Federal Affairs and Local Development to issue directives to local bodies to implement the provision of the Local Development Act pertaining to ECDs.
They also outlined the need to institutionalize training for ECD facilitators into the teachers’ training programme, and to strengthen social protection measures for young children of disadvantaged community groups.
Recommendations were made for regional collaboration in South Asia in research and documentation, methodology for developing standards, and for monitoring and evaluation, including indicators relevant for South Asia.
UNICEF Nepal, partnering with Tribhuvan University’s Research Centre for Educational Innovation and Development (CERID), organized the conference in collaboration with the Ministry of Education. The Conference was also supported by UNESCO, Save the Children, Plan Nepal and national and international non-governmental organizations, as well as private agencies. The conference featured an exhibition, displayed ECD-related materials and showcased innovative programmes developed by various organizations.