About the ICQN-ECD
ADEA has created inter-country quality nodes on several thematic areas, one of them being ECD which is one of the priority areas of the African Union’s Plan of Action of the Second Decade of Education in Africa. The Inter Country Quality Node for Early Childhood Development is an intergovernmental organization for policy dialogue and collaborative action among African Ministers of Education and strategic partners for advancing ECD agenda in Africa. This collaborative approach relies on a networking of African institutions and experts for exchange of knowledge on concepts, research findings and capacity building to respond supportively to the varying contexts in which ECD programmes are implemented. The ICQN for ECD is hosted in the Ministry of Education and Human Resources of Mauritius.
Much work has so far been carried out by the WGECD, created in 1997 to influence policy that support integrated approaches to the development of the young child. The WGECD is currently chaired by UNESCO BREDA and has representatives from African ministries and international agencies, including UNICEF, UNESCO, and the Consultative Group on ECD. In the long term, the WGECD intends to hand over its leadership to the ICQN - ECD.
The relevance of ECD
Early childhood development (ECD) has received increasing attention by countries and development agencies in the last few years, pointing to the realization that investment in early childhood development is no longer debatable. There is clear and compelling evidence that investing in the early years yields high rates of return as it is the very foundation of sustainable human development.
The early years of a child's life, considered as the most important developmental phase, are decisive in laying the foundation for lifelong learning and subsequent development. This period is critical as it will determine, to a large extent, success later in school life and is therefore the best time for ensuring ‘strong foundations’ for future life chances.
A comprehensive ECD approach is rooted in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and encompasses concepts of care, health, nutrition, hygiene, social protection and education that will improve young children's capacity to develop and learn.The interdependence and mutually reinforcing ECD components calls for an integrated approach to ECD programmes.
It is widely accepted that ECD policy covers the period from conception to age 8.
The Current Situation
Overall, much progress has been made in ECD in Africa, with several African countries developing relevant policies and implementing programmes with donor and international support.
However, major global disparities in provision of ECD continue to divide the world’s richest and poorest children. Many countries do not have comprehensive ECD policies and programmes to address the diverse needs of (health, nutrition, care, protection and education) of children. Few countries have established national frameworks to coordinate ECD programmes. ECD strategy has been implemented in a fragmented sector approach that has failed to capture the synergies across sectors.
Access to pre-primary education is lowest among the poor and disadvantaged. The situation is particularly worrisome for Sub Sahara Africa region where under 5 years mortality rate is 123 out of 1000 live births, 39% of children under 5 years suffer from moderate to severe stunting and only 18% of eligible children have access to pre-primary education (GMR 2013, UNESCO).
A number of factors are known to hamper the development and scale up of ECD in Sub-Saharan Africa, including low priority in both Government budgets and development aid. Several factors suggest that the time is ripe for ramping up external aid for this sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, building up on previous positive experiences developed in last decade. Foundations have been laid for building capacities to ensure strategic planning, effective implementation, and use of financial support as well as basis for further resource mobilization.
The Mauritius Africa Initiative
The ICQN-ECD will build on the activities of the Mauritius-Africa Initiative which was launched in 2011 at a regional workshop in Mauritius and which saw the participation of 12 countries namely, Botswana, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Ivory Coast, Madagascar, Mauritius, Niger, Nigeria, Republic Democratic of Congo, Senegal and Seychelles along with experts, development partners and UN agencies.
The Mauritius – Africa Initiative aimed at contributing to the achievement of the EFA Goals and the MDGs in Sub‐Sahara Africa as well as strengthening of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by setting up a regional programme for capacity building and knowledge sharing on Early Childhood Care, Education and Development, under the aegis of the ADEA-WGECD, identifying Mauritius as a knowledge hub and centre of excellence, in connection with other similar experiences and global practices.
Vision of the ICQN-ECD
This is to be worked out collaboratively with the ICQN countries. It could be around ‘every African child has a good start in life through implementation of effective ECD programmes.
Objectives of the ICQN-ECD
The objectives of the ICQN - ECD are to:
- serve as a forum for advocacy and positioning of ECD as a priority in national development agendas
- create multi-stakeholder synergies for timely and relevant ECD interventions.
- act as a regional platform for capacity building, knowledge sharing, peer-learning and establishing a community of practice.
- disseminate findings of policy research for countries to translate into effective ECD policies
- develop common core skills in ECD that countries can put at the heart of good quality and relevant basic education.
- develop ECD metrics and a Child Development Index to measure progress and provide feedback to policymakers and practitioners on ECD in Africa
- develop an effective communication and dissemination strategy for the promotion of ECD best practices
Facilitation of the ICQN-ECD
- The ICQN for ECD is led by Mauritius as the host country. The lead country is responsible for the overall coordination of the ICQN activities in collaboration with ADEA and strategic partners.
- An Action Plan for 2015-2017 will be developed to detail out the activities to be undertaken over a three-year horizon.
- Activities of the ICQN are coordinated by a Secretariat located in the host country
- A Steering Committee comprising selected Ministers of Education of ICQN countries (preferably from the different Regional blocks of the Continent), development partners as well as agencies, and chaired by the Minister of Education of Mauritius will provide strategic direction to the ICQN
- A Coordination Committee, comprising ECD stakeholders and chaired by the Senior Chief Executive of the Ministry of Education, Mauritius will coordinate strategic priorities in the Action Plan and serve as an advisory body to the Secretariat
- ICQN country-level coordination will be primarily through their national focal points. Each ICQN country will designate a focal point to represent their Government, act as the principal contact point of the ICQN country, engage in implementing activities in the Action Plan and provide feedback to their Ministries.