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Namibia, 19 January 2015: Making investments in early childhood development: It is time to act

19 January 2015, WINDHOEK, Namibia – Namibia is classified by the World Bank as an Upper Middle Income Country which has made great strides in attaining the Millennium Development Goals with regards to access to education, gender parity in education and health. Impressive results in immunization and nutrition of children have been achieved to result in the total number of under 5 deaths brought down from 4,200 per year in 1990 to less than 3,000 in 2013. Namibia has also successfully scaled up Ante Retroviral Treatment to 87 per cent, resulting in less AIDS related deaths. The country has also achieved a near universal access to primary education and while more than 164,400 children benefit from the Child Welfare Grant, an entirely government-funded social protection system.

However, despite positive gains, children in Namibia face enormous inequities. Poverty strikes hard affecting 34 per cent of children, while one in three children are stunted, 13 per cent of primary school aged children are out of school, with an increasing dropout rate at secondary level, and alarming levels of socially tolerated family violence and child abuse. According to the 2011 Population and Housing Census, only 13.9 per cent of children between the ages of 0-4 years old have passed through an Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme and a lot of children with disabilities do also not benefit from early intervention programs.

Other surveys further allude to the unacceptable conditions that are present at most ECD centres in the country. Two-thirds of facilities in the country operate with an inadequate sanitation facilities, a situation which contributes to poor health and poor physical outcomes for children. Most of the facilities are staffed by unqualified and inexperienced personnel and fall short on providing appropriate early learning and socialization opportunities, a dedicated curriculum or adequate infrastructure and facilities.

Senior government officials, politicians, private sector practitioners, civil society and experts in Early Childhood Development, who met in Windhoek on 19 -20 January 2015, have agreed that making investments in pro-poor Early Childhood Development is a fundamental cost effective way to improve, cognitive, social and intellectual development of children and set the course for a child’s lifelong health, productivity, high education levels, good citizenship, successful parenting and better job prospects. These early interventions include health care, protection and welfare, early stimulation and positive parenting, and preschool education. Together they can mitigate the effects of lower household income, poorer educational attainment of caregivers, attitudes and practises that perpetuate violence and abuse, help break the cycle of inequities that dominate the lives of many children and families in middle-income countries, and promote socially transformative norms change

Speaking during a presentation and discussion hosted by the Economic Association of Namibia and UNICEF as part of a series of events to map strategies on assisting the Government’s integrated Early Childhood Development programme, delegates conceded that early childhood development programmes create an ideal and fertile ground to reduce the gender, social and economic inequalities that divide societies and perpetuate poverty in Namibia.

“Promoting early learning is one of the invaluable components of an integrated ECD programme,” said UNICEF Representative, Ms. Micaela Marques de Sousa. “There is also an urgent need to complement and support early learning opportunities with access to adequate nutrition, protection and social inclusion services to eliminate the social and economic barriers that inhibit the most vulnerable, hardest to reach populations from enjoying equitable and quality ECD programmes that may reduce their exposure to risks.”

The Fourth National Development Plan recommends the transition of IECD centres from the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare to the Ministry of Education and the construction and maintenance of IECD centres, especially to benefit communities in deprived or rural communities. Among the benefits of the transition will be the smooth progression from ECD, pre-primary and lower primary through to secondary education and standardization of the curricular across the board. Within this transition, some elements of IECD which link vulnerable families to social grants, child welfare grants, social welfare services, and parts of parenting education, support for nutrition and health and the prevention and early detection of children at risk of violence and abuse will be further strengthened.

“The success of an integrated ECD programme is dependent on creating models and policies which are incorporated across government ministries. This would ensure cumulative investment and better monitoring and evaluation of services such as standards at ECD centres, community outreach programmes, parenting and family support as well as home visitation programmes,” said Ms. de Sousa.

Dr. Chris Desmond from the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa stressed that the provision of a comprehensive package of services requires a cross-sectoral involvement of all government departments, civil society organisations, religious bodies, commerce, agriculture and environmental services combined to improve the reach, quality and success of IECD systems in Namibia.
 

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For more information please contact:

Judy Matjila: jmatjila@unicef.org; Tel: +264 61 204 6253

Tapuwa Loreen Mutseyekwa: tmutseyekwa@unicef.org; Tel: +264 61 204 6108

Rochelle van Wyk: rvanwyk@unicef.org; Tel: +264 61 204 6264

Anna Sophie Niedergesaess: committee@ean.org; Tel: +264 815739443

 

 
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