Investment in Early Childhood Education Can Never Be over Estimated

Based on 2014 statistics as provided to Yumi Toktok Stret by the Office of the ECCE, approximately 13, 000 toddlers, little children or Pikininis from the ages of 3 to 5 will be expected to attend day-care centers, pre-school and kindergartens throughout Vanuatu. “This year we are anticipating an increase on Early Childhood intake and we expect some 13, 000 plus children across Vanuatu will be attending Early Childhood Education.

“While the legal age limit of Early Childhood Education is between the ages of 3 to 5 years of age, we are also anticipating a big portion of this figure which is around 5000 of these children who would be 7 to 9 year olds will be attending ECE centers,” confirmed Jenny James who is ECE National Coordinator.

According to Jenny James, about 9, 000 children within the legal ages limit of ECE which is 3-5 years old will be att4ending a Early Childhood education this year in over 561 kindergarten and child-care centers.

Successive governments since independence continue to focus its policy priorities on primary, secondary and tertiary education level which subsequently consume the majority of national 4 billion vatu education budgetary provisions.

It is only until last year that new Education Act no. 9 of 2014 successfully tabled by current Minister Bob Loughman made mention of Rights of the Child, including some aspects of Early Childhood and Care Education policies.

Apart from that, the broad policy stance of the government is that pre-school remains ‘community-based’. With this perspective, the community is expected to provide amongst other things, land, building. Human and financial resources while the government through ECCE to provide teacher training.

“Over the years the level of support and government commitment towards ECE has been consistently gradual, and
we are pleased that various non-
government organizations like
the churches are increasingly
participating in developing
pre-school and kindergarten
centers ” ECE National
Coordinator stated.

In the urban centers
however, where there is
high concentration
of population, privately
owned and operated
Child Care centers and
Kinds are proofing to
be successful
ventures as working
parents who are able
to afford fees send
their toddlers to
these centers.

But how longer
can the
government
continue to
develop
minimal interest
in this
important
segment of the
population?

Not only through research but that It has become common knowledge that brain development in the first five years of life of an infant is the architecture upon which later brain development is founded. Enriching experiences and nurturing early childhood year and instilling high quality early childhood education helps children develop critical skills, habits and healthy lifestyles.

National ECE Coordinator, James reported to Yumi Toktok Stret that the office of Early Childhood Education based within the Ministry of Education, is staffed with two officers and who operate an annual budget of 4 million Vatu. “Of the 4 million annual budget, ECE office conducts workshops and seminars for the 884 teachers who are based out in the fields,

“Early Childhood Education through the government, is also quite privileged to have received some financial support from donor partners being AS aid and NZaid by way of grants that is being currently implemented by the World Vision.” reveals Jenny James.

According to ECE National Coordinator, the World Vision ECE project targets only 60 schools of the 561 standard kindys in Vanuatu.

But the situation is particularly worrying for the kids in the age range of 3 to 5 years throughout the island communities and villages. And unless the government can step up its efforts, these kids would always remain disadvantage in proper Early Childhood Education due to lack of proper qualified teachers, lack of ECE programs, facilities, and the lack of access to these centers due to cash flow situation with the rural villages.

Interesting facts and figures provided by the Office of the ECE revealed that at-risk children who don’t receive high-quality early childhood education are; 25% are more likely to drop out from school, 40% more likely to become a teen parent, 50% more likely to be place in special education, 60% more likely to never attend college or university, 70% more live to be arrested for a violent crime.

The country’s national indicators speak loud. Being ranked the lowest in the region in terms of lowest literacy rates, rather high sexually active population, high teenage pregnancy, high unemployment, high school dropout rates, and a rising crime rate can only be best addressed by focusing on all our children,
beginning at birth.

This calls for government, non-government organizations and parents to seriously consider having more interest in and to consider Early Childhood Education as a priority agenda because Early Childhood programs are the most cost-effective way to ensure the healthy development of children in poverty and offer the greatest returns to society.

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