CSOs from Zimbabwe joints other SADC CSO Networks takes Early Childhood Development Education policy issues to SADC Heads of State Summit

Southern Africa Resource Watch (SARW), Southern African People’s Solidarity
Network (SAPSN), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are set to participate in the SADC People’s Summit to be held in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This year’s SADC People’s Summit will be held under the theme ‘Challenging extractivism and reclaiming our resources for people centered development in SADC.’

The SADC People’s Summit is held every year alongside the SADC Heads of State Summit. It is a treasured space for diverse social movements, community-based organizations, churches, labour, women’s organizations, youth organizations, regional and international solidarity partners to gather in solidarity, reclaim agency and express the voices of poor and marginalized groups in the Region.

To this end, hundreds of people from around the Region will gather alongside their DRC counterparts to exchange views and formulate a cohesive people centered regional position to be presented to SADC leaders as they gather for the 46th SADC Heads of State Summit.

Among the CSOs to participate in the SADC People’s Summit is the Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood Development Actors (ZINECDA) one of the strongholds of the Education Coalition of Zimbabwe on Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE), Civil Society Education Coalition (CSEC) in Malawi and Lesotho National ECD Coalition of Lesotho (NECDOL).

Below is the content in the Position Paper which is set to be submitted to the SADC Heads of State Summit by the ECDE Actors.

Introduction


ECDE and inclusive education which are the foundation or the cornerstone for quality, equitable, lifelong learning for all. There is agreement that Early Child Development and Education (ECDE) is a human right in addition to being an enabling right. ECDE positively contributes to adult outcomes such as educational attainment, health, work productivity, and incomes. Individual countries have up to this point been addressing the challenge of ECDE at their own discretion. The African Union (AU) through its Continental Education Strategy Agenda (CESA 2016-2025) recognizes the importance of pre-primary (ECD) as the pillar on which future learning and training are grounded. To further add to the importance of ECD, target 4.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals states that by 2030 countries should: ‘ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education’. However, although there has been a remarkable transformation in education, the promotion of universal access to quality ECDE remains a significant challenge for educators and policymakers in the region. SADC does not have a strategy for the ECDE to guide member states on how to execute or assure the achievement of target SDG 4.2 and CESA commitments. The absence of sound ECDE policies, poor environmental conditions, low family income, and chronic corruption in some SADC Member states have added to the overwhelming barriers to ECDE. Therefore, this paper has put together concerns and priorities in the ECDE sector which requires sustained political will and action in order to deliver sustainable development in the region. The following actions will mark improvements in ECDE in SADC;

Action area 1: ECDE Financing
Financing for the ECDE sector is a worrisome challenge. ECD funding is about 1.57% of the education budgets with the majority of countries faring below 1%. More than 70% of the budgets go towards salaries of staff with little left for infrastructure and learners’ needs provision. Budget allocations to ECDE of less than 1% of the national education budget are far short of 2000 EFA commitment of 3% and confirmed by GPE which observes that 40% of countries with data available allocate less than 2% of their education budgets to early childhood education. This meagre support to the sector makes it doubtful to achieve SDG 4 target 4.2 by 2030.

Therefore, there is need for SADC states to;

Increase the ECD share in national budget allocations. Although UNICEF recommends 10% of education budget to ECDE, it is recommended that SADC initially commits 5% as the starting point.
SADC member states must include specific budget line for ECDE and majority of contribution to ECDE budget must be from government

Action area 2: Access to ECDE
The access to ECDE is very low compared to primary and secondary education. Access for ECDE in some countries is Mozambique 6%, Zambia 25%, Eswatini 28%, Zimbabwe 46%, Malawi 47% and South Africa 59% showing that the majority of children between 3-5 years are out of ECDE. The participation rates are also low ranging from Net Enrolment Rate (NER) 6% to 40% with majority being under 30%. The Gross Enrolment Rate (GER) is also low averaging below 50%. This implies that a lot of children are entering ECDE at above or below age and the majority out of school. This is further compounded by very few teachers as shown by learner teacher ratios averaging 40:1 with learner teacher trained ratio being above 60:1. According to the report of the 2021 SADC budget expenditure analysis, a study commissioned by ZINECDA, access to early childhood development services in the region remains a challenge with more than 50% of children aged between 3-5 years still unable to access these services. This is further worsened by the fact that ownership of most ECD centres is in private hands with very few government controlled (14.4%) showing that states have abrogated their duty to community institutions (with least means to provide needed services) and private hands (very expensive and elitist) players. Due to lack of policy and legislation on ECDE services, the international community is not meeting the education financing benchmarks to meet SDG 4 by 2030 which further affects availability, access and quality of ECDE services to the vulnerable children in developing countries

Therefore there is need for SADC States to;

Comply with recommended 20:1 learner teacher ratio and for accelerated enrolment of ECD learners and provision of corresponding infrastructure.
Train ECDE teachers in inclusive education.
Increase access to quality ECD by poor and marginalised children from the current NER by 2025
Take affirmative action to make huge investments in ECDE infrastructure and facilities to comply with recommended 20:1 learner teacher ratio.
Establish or review ECDE curriculum to be in line with the 21st century provision of the services.
Include ECDE as part of universal education and being in the hands of governments.

Action Area 3: ECDE Leadership in the region
Very few countries have ECDE Directorate (with exception of Zambia) with majority appended in either Education or Gender or Social Welfare ministries. As a result ECDE is mostly absent from decision making spaces in education. While most SADC countries have integrated ECDE strategies and policies with some countries having costed implementation strategies with a few having none (Zambia and Zimbabwe), at SADC level there is neither policy nor implementation strategy for ECDE while the sector is not monitored through Education Information Management Systems.

There is need for SADC States to;

Establish ECDE directorates at SADC Secretariat and country levels to take ownership and leadership in ECDE planning, financing, curriculum, regulatory and supervision and including establishing and or integrating ECDE in EMIS at country and regional levels.
Create a conducive legal and policy framework that supports the effective provision of ECDE service at both regional and national levels.
Establish a bureau for ECDE research for Monitoring and Evaluation at regional level to keep track implementation and interventions for informed decision making.

Action Area 4: Education and Training Protocol
It is recognized that as a region, member states have prioritized education and training through a protocol. However, the protocol is silent on ECDE and neither is it prioritised in the Regional Indicative Strategy Development Plans. To date, there is no SADC policy for ECDE to guide member states on how best they can implement or ensure the realisation of SDG 4 target 4.2 and CESA commitments.

There is need for SADC States to:

Prioritise ECDE in SADC education spaces
Develop a policy framework which will guide the SADC states in its implementation and oversight.
Include of ECDE and inclusive education in the SADC Education and Training Protocol and or develop an implementation strategy which includes inclusivity issues or additional protocol for ECDE.

Cognizance of the realization that ECDE and inclusive education was not on the agenda, we nevertheless, as CSOs from the SADC region, recommend that for all the aforementioned issues to take centre stage in the region, ECDE must be an agenda for SADC at Summit, Secretariat and country levels. All conferences and summits need to include ECDE in order for a clear action road map to be developed