Now is the time to act for the children of Africa
It’s June 16, Day of the African Child (DAC) 2017. It is a good day to reflect on and plan to further invest in the group that holds the key to unlocking doors of peace and prosperity on earth. I invite you to my world as champion for children, but first meet Neema Anthony (4) of Mwanza, Tanzania
On a sunny afternoon Neema is enjoying a watermelon outside her home at Kabangaja Village. She was not expecting any visitors, but Neema quickly turned into a perfect hostess by ‘cooking’ a special meal for a film crew that visited the house she lives in with her parents and siblings, in Ilemela District. In her generous and creative mind, a mixture of sand and water represent ‘ugali’ (a staple in here community), eaten together with green vegetables (a few leaves from a nearby plant placed in plastic containers.
The film crew, Frame X Frame, was in Tanzania to document Children in Crossfire’s work in its impact districts within Kilimanjaro, Mwanza and Morogoro. Children in Crossfire partners with local organisations—Maarifa ni Ufunguo, Tanzania Home Economics Association (TAHEA) and Child Development Trust Fund Network (CDTFN)–to ensure that young children’s early development is supported increasing their chances of meeting their fuller potential as they grow up. Directly working with 35 community preschools and 135 pre-primary classes across government primary schools, we support teacher training and mentoring in early childhood education, the set-up of stimulating learning environments including learning materials and locally-sourced play materials, as well as integrating aspects of nutrition, stimulation, care and protection. Annually our Early Childhood Development (ECD) programmes are reaching more than 13,000 young children like Neema and priming them to be ready for school.
Pre-primary class in Kinda Village performing a dance
While CiC focuses on Neema and others in Tanzania, the international community’s attention is also on her and all children in her age range, due to the potential they hold to transform their respective countries and communities around the world. It is estimated that 43%—249 million—of children under five in low-and middle-income countries are at an elevated risk of poor development due to extreme poverty and stunting. This represents a tragedy of lost opportunity and potential, given according to the Lancet Series titled, Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale that was launched in 2016, children in the early years have the best chance of maximising their potential when they are well nourished, responsively cared for, with learning opportunities from birth onwards, and protected from disease, violence, and stress.
A key partner to Children in Crossfire intervention is the Tanzanian government especially in its delivery of the country’s vision and its commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). While it cuts across many of the SDGs, ECD comes out most strongly in Goal 4: “Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It is specifically mentioned in target 4.2: “By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”
This year’s Day of the African Child’s theme is “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for Children in Africa: Accelerating protection, empowerment and equal opportunity.” The theme responds directly to the call and recommendation from the Lancet that the time to act is now!
Total concentration at the reading corner
This is the market place in an ECD classroom in Ilemela, Mwanza.
These are important learnings from evidence that we all need to ensure are implemented:
- Interventions that promote nurturing care—health, nutrition, responsive caregiving, security and safety, and early learning—may cost as little as 50 cents per child per year, when combined with existing services such as health. Evidence from studies show that the cost of inaction is very high;
- Individuals are estimated to suffer a loss of about a quarter of average adult income per year, while countries may forfeit up to as much as two times their current GDP expenditures on health or education.
Therefore, if we act now, Neema and other children her age will be equipped to produce better world citizens in the future, with higher average income who are overall balanced to protect the planet and maintain peace. Neema will be a responsible 17-year old when the world takes stock of its SDG performance in 2030. The foundation to ensure that she reaches her full potential when she grows is being set right now by her parents, teachers and all stakeholders in ECD.
Let us all play our part by joining the movement to invest in our children.
Our children are our most valuable treasure. #watotowetutunuyetu
Happy Day of the African Child Day!