An Early Childhood Education Ethiopia Initiative
The first five years of life are foundational to human development. During these early formative years, children gain knowledge through cumulative experiences as they engage with others in their surroundings. Children at this stage of development depend on their caregivers such as fathers, mothers, grandparents, and other family members to nurture them, and respond to their social-emotional, physical, and cognitive needs while the environment plays an equal role in enhancing and translating these early experiences into short & longterm knowledge. High-quality, caring, responsive, happy, and playful beginnings provide the infrastructure for whom we become for the rest of our lives.
But for many children in Ethiopia, their early start is challenged by social and environmental inequities. The majority of children under five come from unserved or underserved communities. Early trauma and severe neglect during these years create barriers to learning which is highly dependent on meaningful relationships and trust with others. An unhealthy start for many children also means a lifelong struggle to become a successful and contributing member of the larger society. But as a country, we can change the outcome for many children by investing holistically in the first five years. Early Childhood Education Ethiopia, an organization with a mission and vision to improve, advance, expand and prioritize early childhood care and education in rural Ethiopia is advocating for the following four initiatives to move toward meeting the children’s agenda in Ethiopia.
Increase Social Services
Children need unhindered care and support during their early years. Increasing social services that provide assistance to both the child and the family is a critical first step. As an integral part of the social system, schools especially early education programs in conjunction with hospitals, and public assistance agencies should be readily available and in abundance to meet the demands of the population. The concentration of such services should be prioritized first in rural areas where most of the population resides, and then cascade down to the cities.
Close the Equity Gap
Families that fall under the poverty line and those that come from the underserved community make up more than 70% of the population. Most live in rural or less industrialized areas throughout the country. For families, closing the equity gap means comprehensive support that upends one’s ability to gain financial growth, achieve self-reliance, and have access to social services that secure personal health and generational wealth. One way to close the equity gap is to afford all children the right to attend high-quality early learning programs near their communities in close proximity to their dwellings. High-quality programs begin with investing in early childhood teachers’ education, pay parity, and continued professional development.
Early Childhood Education Ethiopia’s guiding principle #4 states, “We believe parents are navigational experts, problem solvers, astute communicators, negotiators, and equal contributors to their children’s education”. As an organization, we stand fully by this statement. As such, we should invite parents to every table for input, to inform policy and co-direct practice. Integrating their voice as the driver for change should be collectively embraced at the local, national, and global platforms. We are advocating that in any decision made regarding children, parents’ engagement as equal partners must be embraced, valued, and integrated into both policy and practice.
Strengthen Rural Communities
Approximately 70% of Ethiopia’s population lives in rural areas. These communities offer a wealth of knowledge and cultural resources but the inclusion of who they are and what they bring has been absent from early education reforms. Early Childhood Education Ethiopia believes it is when we strengthen rural communities we gain measurable achievement in amplifying children’s agenda throughout Ethiopia and elsewhere. It is because of this foundational belief that Early Childhood Education Ethiopia is building the first community preschool in Debre Tabor, Ethiopia.
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Early Childhood Education Ethiopia