As part of efforts to ensure Early Childhood Development (ECD) program takes center-stage in Liberia, the Ministry of Education (MOE) through the Bureau of Early Childhood Education has intensified its National Early Childhood Development Advocacy and Communication Strategy campaign in the country.
The nationwide campaign seeks to highlight the importance of ECD supported by evidence of the latest neuroscience thereby re-echoing government’s mandate and commitment to fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2, 4 and 16 in particular.
The ECD campaign further emphasizes the moral obligation of every adult and the Government of Liberia to ensure every child in the nation is healthy, strong, smart, happy, safe, and protected.
According to officials of the ECD program, the advocacy campaign is taking place vigorously at the same time in two of three regions including Region One: Bomi, Gbarpolu, Grand Cape Mount, and Margibi counties and Region
Three: Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee, and Sinoe counties respectively. Although Region Two which comprises Bong, Grand Bassa, Lofa, Nimba, and Rivercess counties has launched its ECD advocacy campaign since 2017 but basic ECD messages are still being carried out through established ECD inter-sectoral institutions throughout the region.
Speaking recently at two of their interactive activities in Careysburg, Montserrado and Marshall, Margibi counties, one of the ECD Specialists at the Bureau of Early Childhood Education of the Ministry of Education, Mr. Emmanuel Boone Waydon, Sr., said the campaign is intended to spread the information about the importance of ECD in Liberia so as to create the demand for early childhood development services in the country.
Waydon hopes that at the end of the initiative, all of the different segments of stakeholders such as parents, teachers, community leaders, and policymakers of ECD in Liberia will have not only basic information and understanding about ECD, but will know their respective roles and responsibilities and take appropriate actions to improve the conditions of Liberia’s youngest population.
According to him, the Ministry of Education has developed one of the best early year’s systems in the world but limited budgetary support to trigger the anticipated outcomes is the biggest challenge at the moment.
“ECD is an outcome we want for all children: physically healthy, emotionally secure, socially competent, intellectually curious, and culturally aware. It covers children aged 0-8 years, cuts across a number of sectors including health, education, social welfare, nutrition, among others,” he said.
Considering the prevailing situations of ECD in Liberia where 75% out of half of million children enrolled in Early Childhood Education are overaged, 32% are stunted, over 90% of teachers are not trained, learning environments are poor, women and children in specific health facilities are limited; there is a need for intentional and purposeful interventions in this very important sector in order to secure a better and brighter future for all young children across Liberia without discrimination.
In a country where the numbers of teenage pregnancy cases and nationally displaced persons ‘less fortunate’ are increasing on a daily basis, it is only wise to make the right investment now in the life of the young children at an early age, something he said will benefit communities and the society in general.
Waydon further said the surest way to do away with poverty is through education, adding, “while it is true government is responsible to provide basic social services for the people, the people themselves in return must be responsible.”
“You should have good economic status to meet some of your needs before bearing children. The biggest challenge today is encouraging youth to stay away from just giving birth to children and push toward a better future by focusing on their education as we do not want a recurrence of over-age children in school,” he added.
Participants at the gatherings in Careysburg and Marshall welcomed the initiative and promised to use the knowledge gained to educate and sensitize the public (parents, children) on the importance of early childhood education or development (ECE).
They want the program to continue even beyond the launch so that eventually everyone will embrace the idea of early childhood education to build a well-appreciated future for Liberian kids
In return, Waydon, the ECD Specialist reminded the participants that the Ministry of Education (MOE) places emphasis on ensuring that Liberia’s youngest children have access to quality overall Early Childhood Development (ECD) Services without any act of discrimination.
The National Inter-Sectoral Policy on ECD and National Inter-sectoral Committee on Early Childhood Development (ECD) have been in place since 2012 but demonstrated national commitment by stakeholders to ably implement this policy has been reportedly limited.
In its most recent Education Sector Plan (ESP 2017-2021), the MOE made awareness raising one of the key components under ECD but has not been fully implemented due to the lack of requisite resources.
The region one program was officially launched on July 23, 2018 in Tubmanburg, Bomi County in western Liberia. The program is led by Inter-Sectoral Committees on ECD at the County level. In region one, 300 ECD stakeholders will be selected from the five Counties.
It further targets National Inter-sectorial Institutions and partners as the means of creating demand for early childhood development in the country. The launch of the National ECD Campaign in region one will be driven by local education officers.
Meanwhile, activities befitting the event include a countywide mobilization involving all major stakeholders including 50 community leaders and 10 inter-sectoral representation to reinforce the awareness of the launch in Tubmanburg, Bomi County which is being led by Inter-Sectoral Committee on ECD at the County level by organizing various community activities.