Early childhood development

Early childhood development



Early childhood development

The early years of life are crucial for a child’s development and growth. Children, who are well nurtured and cared for in their earliest years within a family environment, are more likely to be healthy, to develop thinking, language, emotional and social skills and achieve their full potential as adults.

However, in Rwanda, just over 12 % of children between the ages of 3-6 have access to any type of early learning and development services, and these tend to be in urban areas and too costly for poorer parents. The capacity of families to provide the best care to their young children needs to be improved and a holistic and integrated approach to support the development of young children, particularly those from poor and vulnerable families, established.

Interventions in the early years provide young children with greater opportunities and better outcomes in education, quality of learning, physical growth and health, and, eventually, productivity. UNICEF believes that a focus on “ECD and the Family” will not only give young children the best possible start in life but is also the best investment that Rwanda can make in order to achieve its national goals; including poverty reduction, reducing infant, child and maternal mortality, eliminating malnutrition and improving access to quality education.

Rwanda approved its ECD Policy and Strategic Plan in September 2011. The policy promotes the holistic development of all children in Rwanda through the provision of integrated health, nutritional, early learning and protection services to families and children between 0-6 years of age. The goal of the ECD policy is to ensure all Rwandan children achieve their potential, are healthy, well-nourished and safe, and their mothers, fathers and communities become nurturing caregivers through receiving integrated early childhood development services.

More emphasis is required on school readiness and pre-primary programmes to ensure that services and programmes for children between the ages of 0 and 6 are fully harmonised, integrated and provide a holistic approach to the development of the child.

What is UNICEF doing?

As part of the UN in Rwanda, UNICEF is supporting the development of ECD services by: 

  • Reviewing and standardising school readiness initiatives, and advocating for a one year school readiness programme.
  • Contributing to the modeling of the Integrated Family and Young Child Services in order to demonstrate the impact of integrated ECD&F services on holistic childhood development, particularly for the most vulnerable children. This will inform the roll-out of government-supported modeling across the country.
  • Building the capacity of ECD professionals in ECD centres, public pre-schools and nurseries.
  • Development of Early learning and development standards in education.



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