The First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, has emphasised the importance of investing in early childhood development programmes for the country’s growth.
“Early childhood development interventions are among the most cost-effective investments a country can make in the human development and capital formation of its people and its impact in economically disadvantaged communities can be transformational,” the First Lady said.
“Therefore, giving children the best possible start in life is one of the best investments Rwanda can make for its present priorities,” she explained.
She was opening a one-day workshop, which drew policy makers from several concerned ministries, as well as district officials and other stakeholders involved in early childhood development programmes.
This early investment, according to Mrs Kagame, is critical as delays in the early years of life are difficult and costly to reverse later.
Government recently approved an Early Childhood Development Policy and Strategic Plan, which provides a framework to ensure a holistic and integrated approach to the development of young children.
The goal of the Early Childhood Development Policy is to “ensure all Rwandan children achieve their potential, are healthy, well-nourished and safe, and parents and communities become nurturing caregivers through receiving integrated early childhood development services”.
This integrated approach to Early Childhood Development within the Policy calls for inter-sectoral coordination across various sectors.
Early childhood development forms the foundation of basic education programmes in the Ministry of Education, Maternal and Child Health, Nutrition and Sanitation Services for the Ministries of Health and Infrastructure, and social protection services of the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion, among others.
“We are all responsible for promoting the right of every child to grow up in a conducive environment with opportunities to be the best that they can be,” the First Lady reminded the meeting.
“It is now for us to take this opportunity and turn the tide in the development of our children through early childhood development. It will not only take the inclusion of parents and caregivers as well as communities but the policy makers.”
Addressing the ECD Stakeholders Meeting, UNICEF Rwanda Country Representative, Noala Skinner, highlighted the important role played by the community and families in the early development of children.
“The community-based approach at the heart of the Early Childhood Development Policy underlines the importance of the family in giving young children the best start in life through promoting good parenting practices,” said Skinner.
Skinner added; “Building an integrated system around children, centred on a nurturing and loving family equipped with positive parenting skills and community-based ECD services will contribute to sharply and permanently reducing the main problems related to the protection and development of children.”
Participants at the meeting drew a way forward for the implementation of the national ECD Strategic Plan in an integrated and coordinated manner. They were encouraged in that endeavour by the Minister of Education, Dr. Vincent Biruta, who reminded the gathering that the theme of the meeting was “coordination and integration” and called upon the stakeholders “to examine our commitments under the ECD Policy and Strategic Plan and to strengthen areas of coordination”.
The ECD Stakeholders Meeting also marks the beginning of the Early Childhood Development Global Action Week Campaign, which comprises several media and awareness raising events, going up to April 28. The week long programme was also launched by the First Lady.