Early Childhood Development
Global evidence shows that quality early childhood development (ECD) is essential to bridge equity gaps and overcome intergenerational poverty. In this context, UNICEF has enhanced its role as a partner to government in expanding the coverage of quality ECD services.
Access to these services was low for many years. To increase coverage, UNICEF supported the amendment of the Children’s Act to define children’s entitlement to critical ECD services. A government subsidy to ECD community-based sites has increased coverage to about 43 per cent in the last two years.
However, a recent UNICEF-government expenditure tracking study on ECD services shows that many poor children are yet to be reached by subsidies for ECD. In light of this, UNICEF is working with government on a comprehensive policy review that guarantees more equitable provision of ECD programmes.
The policy review includes assessing the implementation of the key plan for the sector, the National Integrated Plan for Early Childhood Development for 2005–2010, as well as developing feasible options to expand quality services to the poorest communities in the shortest possible time. UNICEF has also provided extensive support for the finalisation and validation of the National Early Learning Development Standards and is working with partners to develop a curriculum.
Results in the sector are picking up. More than three-quarters of five-year olds now have access to grade R, the reception year before entry into primary school.