Early Childhood Development
While ECD has been slowly gaining momentum in Namibia over the past five years, access and quality remain a serious challenge. The period in a child’s life from 0-8 years is critical in terms of building a strong foundation for a healthy development, lifelong learning and well-being. Data shows that investment in ECD is one of the most effective and cost-effective strategies for societies to develop the human capital required to advance economic and social development.
A national development priority: ECD is one of the key pillars of The Harambee Prosperity Plan 2 (HPPII), seeking to address the long term affects that result from unequal opportunities for young children. This important document for guiding development activities explicitly names DWN as a partner of government for urban development (p 46). This strong relationship allows DWN to collaborate with government institutions to best support the provision of quality and integrated ECD throughout Namibia.
Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): Strengthening early childhood development is key to achieving at least seven of the SDGs, on poverty, hunger, health (including child mortality), education, gender, water and sanitation and inequality. Progress toward the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be amplified through investment in early childhood policies and services (see table below).
Since January 2020, DWN has developed an ECD programme that now supports 229 ECD centres in 5 towns. The programme is working in close collaboration with the Ministries of Gender and Education, developing and testing approaches that are contributing to wider national programmes.
The programme is implemented through five specific areas of intervention:
Provision of learning and teaching materials:
The programme develops teaching and learning materials that can be used within the national ECD curriculum. The materials are printed and distributed to all ECD centres that are part of the programme. All materials can also be downloaded from the ECD resource site.
For example, through partnerships with organizations such as African Storybook Project and Book Dash, DWN has printed over 37 000 copies of stories in 2021. Working with local translators, the stories have been translated into three indigenous Namibian languages. These stories have been distributed to approximately 5 000 parents, caregivers and families that live in informal settlements across Namibia. They will also be available on national platforms so that they can be freely printed and distributed.
Stationary is also being purchased and distributed by the programme. More than 17 000 items of stationery have been distributed to ECD centres from April to June 2021 for example, including paper, crayons, paint, paint brushes, scissors and glue. These materials allow for expressive, creative learning activities.
During a pilot project, four children’s library boxes were prepared and distributed to ECD centres, with a total of 80 books, 44 sets of teaching and learning materials such as puzzles and flash cards.
Teacher training courses
Since late April, DWN has been implementing ECD teacher trainings on almost a weekly basis for all 750 ECD teachers from the 229 ECD centres that are currently part of the programme. The training materials are fully aligned with government ECD guidelines, and have been developed by DWN staff and private sector ECD experts.
ECD Feeding Programme
In May, DWN designed a cash-based feeding programme for 135 ECD centres in Windhoek, with more than 5 500 children. With generous support from FNB, bank accounts were opened for all centres, and debit cards issued. Cash is now being sent to ECD centres on a monthly basis, with the amount depending on the number of children. The feeding component is funded by UNICEF/EU.
Each ECD centre creates a committee, comprised of teachers and parents that assume responsibility for the purchase and preparation of food and the monitoring of expenditure. All purchases must be signed off by all the members of the committee and are recorded in an accounting book provided by DWN. The book is monitored regularly by the DWN team and then shared with our accountant after every 6 months. (see below the picture of a page of one of the accounting books)
To allow for purchases on the informal market, formal receipts are not compulsory. However, only one informal vendor must be chosen, and all purchases confirmed by the parents and teachers in the committee. The existence of the bank account allows the committee to pay via e-wallet, or withdraw cash with a debit card.
Parent support workshops were developed that engage parents on the importance of holistic child development, positive discipline, and conscious parenting. These workshops are implemented on a weekly basis across all ECD centres participating in the programme. A special guide for parents has been developed and printed for distribution.
ECD centre physical improvements
The programme has conducted an assessment of all 229 ECD centres and compiled catalogues, with key information and pictures of each ECD centre. In a first step, the programme has constructed toilets in 15 ECD centres in Windhoek which did not have any sanitation facilities.
This programme is currently (2021) supported by UNICEF, Interteam, Fundation Botnar and Osino Resources.