Why we must push for massive investment in ECDE

Friday, April 17th, 2020 00:00 |
Nairobi Metropolitan Services director Maj-Gen Mohamed Badi. Photo/PD/FILE

Matthew Muhindi       

As counties prepare budgets for the next financial year, Nairobi residents have an opportunity to influence how money will be spent in the city. 

Public participation is an important civic duty that has become an integral part of democracy since the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.

As budgetary sittings take place, we should ask ourselves how we can best secure the future of our children.

This means we should focus our attention on Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) and call for significant investment in the sector. 

Why should city residents care about ECDE, you ask? The answer is simple. When it comes to a child’s education, the foundation is critical.

As advances in neuroscience clearly demonstrate, children’s brains undergo rapid development in the first five years of their lives. 

Ensuring that children are provided with every opportunity to do well at school means starting early.

This begins in the home and the community. Caregivers, be it the mother, father, or older siblings, play an important role when it comes to nurturing a child’s learning—whether it’s through playing, singing or storytelling. 

From age three, the provision of high quality ECDE with trained teachers and the right books and toys will stimulate children’s learning.  

By pushing for greater investment in ECDE, we can achieve so much more for children. 

Last year, Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko launched an initiative where every child attending a public ECDE school would be allocated a capitation grant of Sh3,815.

The 2019/20 county budget process had also earmarked the refurbishment of 15 ECDE centres to the tune of Sh50 million, while a further Sh40 million was allocated for the acquisition of learning material and equipment. 

This is commendable.

Seeking to fulfill one of his key election pledges to improve the quality and accessibility of education in Nairobi, the above efforts marked a big milestone.  

While the county’s efforts are a good start, much more investment is needed to secure every child’s future.

With the transfer of powers for health, transport, public works and planning and development to the National government, education is the perfect avenue for Sonko to make a mark in our children’s lives. 

This is also not just about bricks and mortar. An ambitious ECDE investment drive would focus on training more teachers and ensuring the salaries of skilled educators are sustainable to retain them in the profession.  

Economic goals will never be successful if proper attention is not given to this sector. The financial support provided by the government should be accompanied by good nutrition services and learning materials. 

As Nairobi residents deal with the coronavirus crisis, they must find time and raise queries on how much will be set aside for ECDE centres, the provision of classrooms and learning facilities as well as feeding.

Residents across the city region should be knocking on the governor’s door and that of Nairobi Metropolitan Services’ boss Maj-Gen Mohamed Badi Ali to make their voices heard. This should be replicated in all counties. —The writer is a consultant and an educationist

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