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31.05.2005 General News

Policy document on Early Childhood in the offing

By GNA

Accra, May 31, GNA - A policy document on Early Childhood Care and Development for Ghana will become operational in 2007, the First Lady, Mrs Theresa Kufuor announced on Monday.

The document, which forms part of the recommendations of Government's white paper on Educational Reforms, makes kindergarten education progressively part of the Universal Free and Compulsory Basic Education.

Under the policy, all Ghanaian children at the age of four are to receive two years compulsory Early Childhood Development (ECD) education before entering primary one. Early childhood is the period of a child's growth from conception to the first eight years. Mrs Kufuor was opening an International African conference on Early Childhood Development in Accra on the theme: Moving Early Childhood Development Forward in Africa.

She recalled the history of early childhood education in the country in the 1940's, when kindergartens were attached to primary schools, and said Ghana had since shown interest in childhood centred policies.

Ghana has also made remarkable strides to enhance the holistic development of the child, she said, emphasising that, the current constitution mandates the government to ensure the rights of the child, including education.

Mrs Kufuor told the delegates that the relevance of the conference focussed on strategising mechanisms and creating the enabling environment to provide children at the early childhood stage with a solid educational foundation.

"Let this conference set the pace for the collaboration of programmes and strategies to address issues that will promote the development of the child so that African countries benefit from your rich experience, resources and training facilities, " she said. Women and Children's Affairs Minister, Hajia Alima Mahama said the curriculum for kindergarten one and two had been developed, while guidelines for the establishment of Early Childhood Care were also being developed.

In addition, manuals for teachers at the pre-school and primary levels were being developed to ensure the early take-off of the programme.

Hajia Mahama said development standards and indicators for four and five years old children had already been completed, validated nationwide and analysed.

She said, as part of the implementation process of the Policy, a multi-sectoral National Coordinating Committee had been put in place to operationalise the document, adding that, the Committee had already began discussions to streamline policy actions.

The five-day conference is being organised jointly by local and international organisations including the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), the World Bank, UNICEF, UNESCO, the WHO and the Government of Ghana.

More than 300 delegates from 39 African countries and the donor community are attending the meeting, which is a follow-up to the first and second held in Kampala, Uganda in 1999 and in Asmara, Eritrea in 2002 respectively.

Among other things, the delegates would focus on three priority action areas that were necessary to move the ECD agenda forward in Africa. These include ensuring effective caring practices within the family and community, access and use of quality basic services and a supportive policy environment.

The outcome is expected to draw increased political commitment to ECD in Africa, facilitate accelerated action at country levels and also correspond with other development processes such as NEPAD. A final policy framework will become part of the agenda for the next NEPAD meeting scheduled for June in Algiers. An exhibition of early childhood educational materials from participating countries has been mounted at the Conference grounds. 31 May 05

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