Project Committee Meeting reaffirms the importance of Early Childhood Education
EI Affiliates in Africa involved in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme supported by the Danish Trade Union Development Agency (DTDA) and the Danish Union of Early Childhood Educators (BUPL) had an online Programme Advisory Committee (PAC) meeting on 18 November 2020.
Children have the right to receive education, as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This right is defended by EI within the framework of its global action campaign for accessible, free quality public education for all. Early childhood education is seen as an integral part of this right.
Despite African governments’ promulgation of national policies on ECE, recomending the extention of public primary school settings to include at least one early childhood education classroom, provision of ECE services on the continent remains largely below expected standards in terms of quality and quantity.
EI affiliates in Africa, including KNUT of Kenya; SNER and SYNEDUC of Rwanda, NUT of Nigeria; ZNUT of Zambia; TTU of Tanzania, are implementig the ECE programme intended to promote quality ECE and decent work for ECE personnel in their respective countries.
The meeting aimed to enable exchange of experiences on work done, achievements, challenges, and strategies to promote ECE in Africa. Participants included representatives of BUPL, the Danish Trade Union Development Agency – DTDA East & Southern Africa, EI Africa Regional and Head Offices, the Federation of East Africa Teacher unions (FEATU), NUT, KNUT, SNER, SYNEDUC, and ZNUT. Participants observed a minute of silence in memory of Marcus Balslev, the BUPL Senior International Cooperation Advisor who passed away on October 8th, 2020. He was the officer monitoring the Africa ECE programme supported by BUPL.
The meeting was opened and closed by the EIRAF Chief Regional Coordinator, Dr Dennis Sinyolo. In his opening remarks, Dennis Sinyolo, highlighted the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access and quality of ECE in Africa. Referring to the findings from the EI surveys, he highlighted the negative impacts of COVID on teachers’ conditions of employment and work. Given the fact that ECE is mainly provided in Africa by private proprietors, Dennis stressed the exacerbation of gender inequality resulting from loss of jobs of privately employed teachers with the majority of them employed in ECE being females.
From information shared by EI affiliates involved in the ECE project, it emerged s that generally ECE teachers in their respective countries were disadvantaged. The pandemic has worsened their conditions of work and employment. Many of them who are employed by private ECE institutions went without salaries, others lost their jobs. Reports from countries revealed that teachers employed in the ECE sector are in precarious conditions.
The meeting adopted a resolution urging governments in Africa and globally to take concrete and immediate policy and financing measures to ensure the right of young children to equitable inclusive quality ECE and to safeguard the status and working conditions of ECE educators.
In his closing remarks, Dennis strongly called for a strong network with relevant partners to promote ECE across Africa.