Early childhood development: The role of community-based centres

According to the National Early Childhood Development Program (NECDP), early childhood development centres (ECDs) provide services in learning, nutrition, and sanitation for better health to children aged three to six.

Diane Iradukunda, an early childhood protection specialist with the programme, says only 13 per cent of children between three and six years of age access early learning and development services due to lack of enough centres.

It is in this context that the programme urges the private sector to invest in the development to boost the Government’s efforts.

Sarah Mutesi, a university graduate, launched an early childhood development centre last week with Rwf8 million as starting capital in Remera, Gasabo District.

She says that the centre will serve up to 30 children aged one to six as more will benefit.

“They will benefit from integrated services that include nutrition, sanitation and hygiene and other health services, and, they will receive basic knowledge in mathematics, English and French,” she says.

The graduate hopes that the investment will be of benefit to the nation in general, adding that she has hired staff with experience in early childhood development.

According to scientific data, 80 per cent of a child’s brain grows within the first three years.

It says any deficiencies in early learning, nutrition, or social connection, at such a stage could affect a child’s health, and physical, intellectual and social growth.

However, many children still lack access to the early development support.

Iradukunda says that many challenges are limiting the access to early learning and development services in the country.

“There are few early childhood development centres, and some people don’t fully understand the role of these centres,” she says.

She explains that the centres play a role in fighting stunting among children and that the Government aims at reducing stunting from the current 38 per cent to 15 per cent by 2020.

“So far we have only 4,109 early childhood development centres across the country which can’t serve all children between the ages of three and six. Only 250,000 children are accessing ECDCs which represents only 13 per cent of all children who need the services. This requires joint efforts with other stakeholders so that we have at least one ECDCs in every village of the country,” she says.

The idea to have ECDCs in every village is still a hard mark; this means we need over 14, 837 centres, yet only 4,109 centres are available today.

“While we have not yet met the target, we urge people to resort to home-based care, where individuals get support from parents to organise basic care services for children before ECDCs are set up,” Iradukunda says.

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