Assessing early childhood development policy, its progress; challenges in implementation

Assessing early childhood development policy, its progress; challenges in implementation
Source: Azume Mesuna
Date: 17-05-2019 Time: 02:05:40:pm
Azume Mesuna

Evidence shows that before children turn three years old, mothers spend more than eight hours of their time engaged in child care whilst balancing other economic work.

The effects of Unpaid Care Work, which refers to the domestic workload placed on women such as cooking, washing, fetching water, taking care of children and sick family members, cannot be overestimated.

It is one of the biggest contributory factors to time poverty, social discrimination and the low economic livelihood activities that affects majority of women.

The article 27, clause two of the 1992 Constitution supports the enactment of policies and laws in Ghana such as the Children’s Act, the Child and Family Welfare Policy and the Early Childhood Care and Development Policy (ECCD) among many other policy interventions.

The ECCD policy was enacted in 2004 in response to the need to provide a guide for government and all stakeholders to promote survival, development, and protection for children from birth to age eight. It also emphasized integrating and coordinating services, among other strategies, for achieving the policy’s goals and objectives.

Care Policy and Education Strategic Plan

Care in this context, refers to the support provided to the growth of children to gain both psychological and physical development, both at home, and at nurseries and other places that might be appropriate. Most child care work, from age 0-3, is done at home and mostly by mothers, especially in rural areas and mothers and by mothers who cannot afford the cost of private care centres. This kind of care is not valued, and the time spent by women during this period in nurturing children and other care-related activities that benefits communities and households is not counted as work. If this period is lost, a child is lost forever. This is why providing basic education at a very early stage is crucial to the development of children. Ghana has made significant strides in mainstreaming and expanding Kindergarten (KG) education with the principle that all primary schools should be attached to KGs. The provisions of the Education Strategic Plan (2010-2020) also supports the prioritisation, expansion and improvement in the delivery of ECCD services in expanding the reach and coverage of these services to many schools. The success of this, however, depends heavily on the capacity of stakeholders at all levels, as well as the establishment of national steering committee and district level committees to facilitate effective implementation of the framework following its adaption.

Ghana was the first country in the world to launch its, ‘Nurturing Care Framework for Early Childhood Development.” The implementation of the ECCD policy in Ghana has increased awareness on young children’s issues, roles of duty bearers and improved some level of collaboration and coordination among the ministries and departments concerned. It has also improved the capacity of a wide range of stakeholders on child care issues while increasing awareness on the importance of the early years and investment in ECCD. Even though the policy has made significant progress, there are many challenges in its implementation, some of which include inadequate resources, weak inter-sectoral collaboration and coordination among others.

Women’s Unpaid Care Work Campaign

Time Use Tracking sheets for both men and women by ActionAid Ghana over the last six years indicates that child care centres for children from 0-3 years improved the performance of children at the KG and primary school levels. Mothers and teachers who had their children at child care centres testified that their children were more assertive. As a result, they were provided more time to engage in economic activities to earn income and partake in community decision-making processes.Using research through time diaries to analyse the activities of 600 mothers and 300 men over the period showed that child care alone takes more than 8 hours of a woman’s time with majority of women (75%) combining child care with other domestic and care-related activities such as cooking, washing, shopping for family consumption, collection of fuelwood, farming, adult care, and trading. As part of our commitments to promote women’s economic empowerment and reduce all forms of structural violence against women and girls, ActionAid Ghana has established child care centres in eight districts in Ghana; Nanumba North and South in the Northern Region, Tain and Asutifi South in the Brong Ahafo Region, Talensi and Nabdam in the Upper East region and the Adaklu districts in the Volta region. Some of the communities that benefited from this project includes Gbare, Bolni, Kanjo, and Tizza.

Although the main objective for providing these centres to women in selected communities was to reduce the time women spend on child care and free them time for income-generating activities and other activities of interest and beneficial to them, the support has yielded dual effects in supporting mothers and promoting children’s growth. The centres did not only lead to recognition of child care burden and the time it consumes but also has helped in the promotion of children’s psychological development. The availability of the centres has increased enrolment at KG levels as well as effective transition to the lower primary education level, improving children’s hygiene levels, nutrition and liveliness not just at school but in their homes. The management of these centres is community-based and less expensive that it can easily be replicated by district assemblies in rural areas to support redistribution and reduction of Unpaid Care Work.

Policy recommendations and way forward

Children constitute the future leadership and represent a powerful and innovative labour force for Ghana and other countries. Therefore, it is imperative for policy makers and all other strategic stakeholders to give serious attention to issues of child care. There is the need for the review of the ECCD policy and other related documents to take cognizance of the time spent by women and girls in child care and provide enough investment strategies to reduce the child care burden on women. This will promote women’s productivity in agriculture, be it farming, service, and industry-related activities. Additionally, it should as well support mothers who want to further their education whiles giving them peace of mind that their children will be well cared for in low cost and affordable centres. Community-managed child care centres for children from 0-3 years should be a priority for Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs); ensuring that their medium-term development plans capture these initiatives. There is the need to strengthen collaboration and coordination between various public and private sector agencies responsible for effective implementation of the ECCD policy and support interventions by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to promote the implementation of the policy. Intensifying advocacy and raising awareness by CSO and various groups to ensure its effective adoption and collective ownership of the centres by all responsible institutions concerned is paramount to ensuring a successful ECCD policy implementation.

Finally, there is also a strong need for a well-structured and comprehensive education programme on child care responsibility and the responsibility of all stakeholders – from households members, especially men and boys, to the private sector and non-governmental organizations but most importantly, public institutions – in guaranteeing this.