A better start in life

The Government of Niger renewed its commitment to expand early childhood education in the country.

By Juan Haro
A better start in life
UNICEF Niger/2019/Islamane Abdou

21 May 2019

The first-ever international conference on pre-school was celebrated in Niamey, Niger, with the support of UNICEF and the World Bank, aiming to offer children a better start in life.

The international conference held in Niamey aimed to ensure the access of children to early childhood development and care, in particular quality pre-primary education by 2030. HE Mrs. Lalla Malika Issoufou, Niger’s First Lady, international experts from UNESCO, the Aga Khan Foundation , the World Bank and UNICEF, gathered together to promote national policy dialogue on pre-primary education for children in Niger.

Today, only 1 in 10 children has access to pre-schools in Niger. The country has one of the highest fertility rates in the world averaging 7.6 children per woman. The reality is that this fast-growing population rate increases the challenges of all sectors contributing to early childhood development, particularly the education sector.

Assessment conducted by UNICEF in 2016 shows that, regardless of the type of preschool attended, children who have benefited from preschool are on average better prepared to enter primary education in the country.

A better start in life
UNICEF Niger/2019/Islamane Abdou

A conference co-organized by the Government of Niger, the World Bank and UNICEF

Attending the Talks, HE Mrs. Lalla Malika Issoufou, Niger’s First Lady highlighted that “preschooling services are mainly concentrated in urban areas. Children from poor or rural families are the least likely to attend early childhood education programmes. Pre-primary education provides the highest return on investment of all education sub-sectors. Children enrolled in pre-primary education are more likely to develop the critical skills they need to succeed in school.” 

UNICEF Representative in Niger, Dr. Félicité Tchibindat, added during the conference that “failure to provide quality early childhood education limits children’s futures by denying them opportunities to reach their full potential. It also limits the futures of the country, robbing them of the human capital needed to reduce inequalities and promote peaceful, prosperous societies.”

‘I recently met Fatimata, animator of the Toudou community kindergarten in the Agadez region. She told me that the impact of preschool education on children is palpable and visible. She said that children who arrive in grade one of the elementary school, are better prepared, have better life-skills, are able to work together, and have notions of numeracy and literacy that greatly help them succeed’ said Tchibindat.

In 2016, the President of the World Bank Group and the Executive Director of UNICEF jointly announced the creation of a new global alliance that will make early childhood development a global policy priority to facilitate access to quality services that improve the health, nutrition, learning capacity and emotional well-being of young children.

‘The development of human capital requires substantial and continuous investment in early childhood targeting child mortality, stunting and the quality of learning well before primary school’ said the World Bank Representative in Niger, Ms. Joelle Dehasse. 

 

A better start in life
UNICEF Niger/2019/Islamane Abdou

Building a better future from the start

Quality pre-primary education is the foundation of a child’s journey: every stage of education that follows relies on its success. National policies, public commitment, and concrete actions are necessary to ensure quality pre-school education and benefits for children, which will persist even in adulthood.

This was a conference of hope. Beyond the national dialogue on early childhood education the conference enabled partners, decisions makers, and stakeholders to agree to sign a declaration to engage in promoting quality pre-school education in Niger.

This mobilization aims to materialize both technically and financially the achievement of our common goals to ensure quality pre-school education accessible for every child in Niger' concluded Dr. Daouda Mamadou Marthé, Niger's Minister of Education. 

Every child deserves access to quality early childhood education. The time, is now. 

UNICEF thanks the World Bank, which stands with us to create a better future for children since their first days, and recognize the support from experts from UNESCO, Ghana, Rwanda, the Aga Khan Foundation, the LEGO Foundation.