Gaborone — Botswana's aspiration of becoming a high income country by 2036 can only be attained by making wise foundational investments such as in early childhood development.
This was said by Vice President Mr Slumber Tsogwane during the launch of the National Early Childhood Development ((ECD) campaign dubbed #EarlyMomentsMatter# in Gaborone on July 11.
Mr Tsogwane said ECD therefore remained one of government's top priorities adding that the state planned to increasr investment in ECD services to give young children the best in life.
He said the #EarlyMomentsMatter# was aligned to Botswana's commitment of ensuring that all children had access to quality early learning, nutrition, good health and protection. Mr Tsogwane said children should be cherished as they had the potential to take the country to greater heights.
Saying the first five years of life had a profound effect on a child's future, he explained that when children were parented with love, nourished and cared for in safe and stimulating environments, they developed the cognitive, social, emotional and behavioral skills they needed to reach their full potential.
Botswana, he said, recognised that children could only reach their full potential when all aspects of their development including intellectual, emotional, social and physical were optimally supported.
Mr Tsogwane said Botswana was committed to expand access to effective and essential early childhood development services in homes, schools, communities and health facilities.
He said government planned to improve skills and knowledge of service providers by strengthening pre-service training and scaling up effective in-service capacity building. Furthermore, Mr Tsogwane said government was committed to make family-friendly early childhood development policies a national priority and a private sector imperative.
He informed his audience that government, through the ministries of Local Government and Rural Development, Basic Education as well as Health and Wellness endorsed the Integrated ECD Policy Framework in March 2018.
That, he said, was an important milestone and demonstrated the commitment of the three ministries to ensure that children's needs were addressed.
He further elaborated that government recently completed an implementation plan and a common results framework with UNICEF support which would inform how to effectively utilise resources and monitor ECD interventions to make a difference in children's lives.
Mr Tsogwane further mentioned that government had pledged to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals ECD targets.
He said government continued to support access to ECD with the introduction of the National Reception Class Programme, noting that to date the programme was offered in 590 out of 755 schools country-wide.
"Whilst we have made progress, we need to work hard to increase access to more children especially in rural and marginalized communities," Mr Tsogwane said.
In addition, he said the country continued to observe child health days annually during which, parents, caregivers and health workers were capacitated to provide better nutritional and health care to under fives.
Mr Tsogwane further said the Ministry of Nationality, Gender and Immigration continued to ensure that every child had a birth certificate to access all the necessary amenities.
He stated that even though Botswana had made progress, there were still children who had no access to the essential ingredients for healthy development.
"Poverty is a common part of the equation" stated Mr Tsogwane.
He said there was also a high level of chronic malnutrition, commonly referred to as stunting which meant children's brain development was hindered and their ability to learn and be economically productive in adulthood was impaired.
He called for collective responsibility to ensure that no child was left behind.
The vice president said to reach that goal, there was need for a stronger, more clearly defined coordination mechanism for all key players to meaningfully contribute.
Mr Tsogwane stressed the importance of working towards creating a safe and secure environment free from any abuse or suffering. For her part, UNICEF country representative Ms Julianna Lindsey said early moments mattered because most of the development of a person's brain took place before the age of six.
The vast majority of the development occurred before the child turned three years old, she said. Ms Lindsey pointed out that if a child received good nutrition, health care, stimulation in the form of language and toys, safety and learning opportunities, its brain developed fully.
A child that was deprived of nutrition, stimulation may literally have a lower IQ than other children, she said. Ms Lindsey called on all to play their part in supporting early childhood development by making sure young children were healthy, nourished, stimulated and safe.
<i>Source : BOPA</i>