Omitara — Deputy Minister for Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Lucia Witbooi, has said in the past two financial years her ministry has supported 14 Early Childhood Development Centres (ECDs) with teaching and learning materials in the Omaheke Region.
She was speaking at the official inauguration of the Omitara ECD Centre in the Okorukambe Constituency of Omaheke region on Tuesday.
The ministry also introduced Edu-carers subsidy to recognize and support the efforts made by ECD caregivers, especially those serving poor communities. Eighty Edu-carers in Omaheke are benefiting from this initiative on a monthly basis.
ECD is important, as it mostly helps to shape the learning and interaction activities for young children through to adulthood. It also helps children discover the world in their own ways and become active learners.
The national ECD co-ordinator, Develias Ngatjiisiue, said ECD programmes promote the individual's competencies and skills for participating in society and the workforce.
Making reference to an African proverb "to have a good harvest, one must have a good and healthy seed and the crop should be well tended", Ngatjiisiue said the children should be seen as these seed that should be healthy for a country to have a good harvest.
He stressed the importance of having each member of the family contribute to the development of a child. "Early childhood care and education is just the beginning of our children's educational careers. Therefore, as parents, both mothers and fathers should be actively involved in supporting the development and growth of our children."
He called upon parents to get involved by participating in parents' committees, food preparation in the feeding programme, clean premises, read and tell stories to children and other activities they could take part and play roles in the children's lives.
"Children who are exposed to good quality early childhood development services are less likely to repeat grades, are more likely to reach tertiary levels of education and are most likely to secure high-paying jobs," stated Witbooi.
Witbooi encouraged the communities to help parents and educarers understand their roles and responsibilities in upbringing of the children.
She further advised them not to leave children unattended or locked in homes but should register them at ECD centres to reap the benefits of the services offered.
"Let us be the champions for young children in our communities. Let us make this centre a place where parents are welcomed and where children can develop and learn," she added.
She pleaded for strong coordination between the ministry's offices on all levels and urged local government to avail land to promote ECD in their communities.
"In many instances, the ministry wants to construct more centres, but cannot because of the unavailability of land," she stated.
The Little Teddy Bear Kindergarten is currently hosting more than 30 kids and it is the only ECD centre in Omitara.
*Hileni Mwandingi is an information officer in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) based at the Omaheke Regional Office