Inadequate investment in the human resource of any nation anywhere in the world is often the principle cause of any lost human potential and eventually any lost national wealth. (Barnett, 2009)
Promoters of early childhood education believe that the starting point for such investment is the child of early childhood education age category. In Zambia, the situation has been bleak for a long time, until recently when the MESVTEE and its partners took up the responsibility of working in Early Childhood Education (ECE).
With this in mind, VVOB Zambia joined a team of stakeholders, among which were UNICEF, Zambia Open University, Child Fund, Plan International, Kansanshi Mine PLC and Save the Children in organising the first ever national conference on ECE. This event was hosted by the Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education (MESVTEE), and was held from 18th to 20th August, 2014 at Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
Proceedings of the Conference
The conference was organised for the purpose of providing a platform where both ECE/ECE scholars and practitioners could share information on best practices obtained through either research efforts or actual intervention experience.
Proceedings of the Conference The occasion was graced by the Minister of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education (MESVTEE), Honourable Dr John Phiri. The national conference attracted a multitude of participants from relevant line ministries, institutions of learning, non-governmental organisations and the corporate sector. In total 298 people attended the conference.
Keynote Speakers came from a broad range of ECE practitioners, including donors, among which were:
- Mr Justine Ngulube of OSISA, who made a presentation on "Inclusive Early Childhood Care and Education for all: Valuing and respecting the unique needs of every child";
- Dr Bernadette Moffat Executive Director for ELMA Philanthropies presented on "Why The Elma Foundation invests in Early Childhood Development in Africa";
- Dr Juliana Seleti – Early Childhood Development Specialist/Consultant "on the quality of ECEC";
- Dr Lynette Okengo from Kenya on Programming of ECE;
- Mr Kanyata and Prof Serpell of UNZA on the rationale for ECDE in rural communities of Zambia;
- and a Sogn Og Fjordane University College of Finland (SFUC) Lecturer who, with two students, presented their experiences of the exchange programmes between Colleges in Zambia and Finland.
There were slightly over 30 paper presentations including those done by VVOB supported colleges namely DALICE and KCE.
VVOB Zambia’s Role
The contribution from VVOB Zambia included among others, a presentation on active teaching and learning, which was ably made by Leonie Meijerink; designing and printing of T-shirts; chairing some sessions during the conference; production of the banners; covering accommodation and transport costs for some Keynote Speakers; being part of the organising committee and hosting preparatory meetings. In addition, VVOB sponsored the participation of seven Lecturers from DALICE and KCE (who also all presented papers).
The following is a summary of priority recommendations that came out from the conference:
- Ensure early identification of all children of ECE age including those with special needs for possible timely intervention;
- Improve teacher availability and capacity in the provision of quality ECE;
- Promote play as a major method of teaching and learning by all ECE teachers in Zambia;
- Ensure that formative and summative assessments are incorporated at all levels in ECE (including the monitoring of standards by standard officers);
- Tap into partnerships and resources such as communities, parents, churches, NGOs and Cooperating Partners to ensure their full participation in supporting ECE;
- Advocate that different stakeholders’ budget allocation for policy implementation is secured for ECE;
- Increase access to ECE beyond 30% whilst ensuring quality.
By Lontia Chinkubala, VVOB Zambia