Early Childhood Care and Education

©UNESCO/D. Willetts
Early childhood care and education lay the foundation for a whole life of learning. Here children from Kenya.

The first eight years of a child’s life are decisive for human development. Yet statistics on early childhood in Africa are appalling.

  • Less than 12% of African children currently have access to Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) services.
  • 12,000 African children die every day under conditions that could have been avoided – the equivalent of a Boeing 747 crashing every hour.
  • Of the 76% of children entering primary school each year, 38% have experienced moderate or severe malnutrition impacting on their psychomotor and cognitive development.

To lay the foundation for a quality education, it is important to plan all interventions from the prenatal period to 15 years. The 0–8 year period is regarded as the decisive period for successful learning.

UNESCO's role in Africa

UNESCO Dakar supports policy development as well as reviews action plans and development frameworks by:

  1. Performing a critical analysis of existing policies with the help of a methodological tool, not only in terms of formulation, clarity and feasibility but also with regard to concrete results or difficulties noted during implementation.
  2. Promoting policy dialogue among stakeholders to build synergies between different visions, orientations or strategic actions of the State, technical and financial partners, civil society, etc.

Key activities

  • The children’s book series Bouba & Zaza breaks the silence of topics such as AIDS, violation of the physical integrity of children, and war- induced trauma that traditionally receive little attention in traditional school curricula in Africa. The series includes 15 booklets and is a primary example of knowledge production in Africa. It's available in English, French, and Portuguese, as well as a number of African languages including Fulani, Hausa, Kiswahili, and Yoruba. It has also been adapted to a North African audience in Arabic.
  • The establishment of the Inter-Country Pole of Quality (ICQN) set up in Mauritius as a Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood. The goal is to create a regional platform for capacity-building programmes and knowledge sharing on early childhood care and education.
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