Child education enrollment in East Africa lags behind the rest of the world

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A research done by Young Lives International stated that Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind much of the rest of the world in terms of access to Early Child Care and Education (ECCE). The research suggests that less than 12 percent of East African children, aged four to six, were enrolled in any form of childhood program, a much lower proportion than in West Africa, which is 40 percent, or North America and Europe which stands at 77 percent. The research states that although the Ethiopian Government’s framework for ECCE provision is a positive advance, there are still obstacles that will need to be overcome in order to implement the policy effectively and in a way that will benefit the most disadvantaged children. “In 2010 Ethiopia launched its first integrated national Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) Policy and Strategic Framework. This framework calls for a collective effort by all sectors to achieve the overall goal of promoting early stimulation, health care and early education for all children from the toddler stage to the age of seven. The policy focuses on enhancing the quality, access and equitable distribution of services for children through more efficient partners and capacity building programs,” stated Fuad Ibrahim, State minister for General Education. The research suggests that there is a strong rural-urban divide in ECCE provision. The coverage and quality of rural ECCE provision is still quite low because government primary school systems are still being consolidated and there is a lack of resources to offer pre-school programs. “With a strong belief that the implementation of the policy will make considerable changes in the lives of children in the country, our Ministry works closely with research partners such as Young Lives. Our Ministry also believes that policies and practices need to be based on empirical evidence which is essential to understand the core issues that affect millions of children in Ethiopia,” Fuad stated. At the workshop held on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at the Desalegn Hotel, organized by Young Lives Ethiopia in conjunction with Save the Children, it was stated that one of the main reasons for lack of ECCE in Ethiopia is the scarcity of resources. It was also suggested that, in order for ECCE projects to be sustainable, they need to be fully funded by the government. The suggestion was labeled unrealistic, because it was stated that one of the reasons the government does not focus on ECCE projects was because it was very costly. Therefore, it will not be able to fund all the projects and will have to depend on foreign aid. Ethiopia has witnessed a fast increase in school enrolment. According to Young Lives data, overall enrolment in schools increased from 65.5 percent to 76.9 percent between 2002 and 2009. Nevertheless, late enrolment is common all over Ethiopia because children are usually involved in domestic activities. Late enrolments and not being exposed to appropriate and required education in the early years of a child’s life may impair overall progress, it was stated at the workshop.