With the booming of pre-schools nationwide, some of which operate from dilapidated or incomplete buildings—do they possess the necessary expertise to teach toddlers?
Director of Civil Society Education Coalition (Esec) Benedicto Kondowe noted that most service providers are implementing early childhood development (ECD) to suit their capacity.
“The legal framework in ensuring procedural running of these centers is very insufficient. As a result, ECD quality is less impressive and so is the access to quality early childhood services,” he says.
Kondowe adds that to date, only about 40 percent of children under the age of eight accesses ECD in Malawi.
But deputy director for child affairs in the Ministry of Gender Children, Disability and Social Welfare Justin Hamela says the country has over 12 000 ECD centres and over 35 000 early child hood teachers and volunteers.
He adds that there are over two million children who have access to early childhood education which is a great achievement.
However, Kondowe observes that teaching children a skill before the sensitive period for that skill has ‘opened up’ is a waste of effort-a development he says was common practice in these schools.
“Early childhood development plays a crucial role in brain development, stimulation, nutrition and early learning. Therefore, quality and relevance of education materials have an effect on early learning as well as stimulation. Appropriate education materials are a requisite for appropriate stimulus and adept learning by toddlers,” says Kondowe.
He says that while everyone wants to give their children the best start in life, knowing when to introduce them to sing, cite words or play is tricky.
Again, he cited the lack of an enforceable regulatory framework for the sub-sector to have weakened compliance and enforcement of standards.
The director believes there is a window of opportunity when children’s experiences shape their developing brain at a particular age.
For all these developments to go well for every child, there is a need for standardisation, clear regulations and enforcements.
Hamela says his ministry and its partners developed an ECD curriculum to that effect.
He says the ministry was not dormant with laws that guide like Child Care and Justice Act, but admitted to the lack of a regulatory framework.
Hamela says the ministry was working on revising its policy which was drafted in 2003.
“The ministry is conscious that some centres are operating without standards and we are working to find solutions as it is compromising the standards and quality of early childhood education,” said Hamela.