Early Childhood Development in Ghana

Early Childhood Development in Ghana
File photo.

By Lennox Akpetey, a Communication Development Analyst

It has been estimated that globally, 43 per cent of children less than five years old are not achieving their full potential. A UNICEF report on early childhood development states that this could be because they do not receive the five elements of ‘nurturing care’ for children. These five elements are Health, nutrition, early stimulation, learning opportunities, and protection.

Issues about children’s welfare and child development are appearing on national and international agendas with greater prominence and frequency. However, the international image of children is becoming increasingly homogeneous and Western-derived, with an associated erosion of the diversity of child contexts. Lack of social and educational facilities have hindered early childhood development in Ghana. The implementation of the curriculum is not evenly done. Those in the hinterland do not have the requisite infrastructure to accommodate and implement the curriculum. Scholars have argued that an effective solution for this is Early Childhood Development (ECD), the objective of which is to ensure that all children between 0 to 8 years, especially the most vulnerable survive, thrive, and develop to their maximum. By providing all young children (from birth to entry into school) equal access to quality health, nutrition, protection, early learning services, support to parents and caregivers so that they can nurture their children through positive parenting, we build a strong foundation for a child’s life.

The Early Childhood Development (ECD) framework covers four important areas – the first 1000 days of a child’s life, early learning and protection, caring for the caregiver and family support. One child in every five in Ghana experiences stunted growth during the first thousand days of life caused by inadequate nourishment, frequent illness and an unhealthy environment. These affect the physical, social and cognitive development of children. Their brain development is negatively impacted which further affects learning at an early age, school performance and ultimately their socio-economic development. Children bear the heaviest cost when it comes to poverty and inequality. UNICEF research shows that 3.65 million children in Ghana live in poverty and 1.2 million live in extreme poverty with inadequate resources to meet their basic food needs.

Additionally, a child is 40 per cent more likely to live in poverty than an adult. The Under-five Mortality Rate remains high at 60 deaths per 1000 live births. This translates to one child in every 17 born in Ghana not making it to their fifth birthday. Ghana has made enough progress in improving enrolment and access to schools. A large number of pupils struggle to meet the proficiency cut-off point for English and Mathematics between grades four and six. Some have called for teaching to be done in the local languages of the children. The English language especially has been a barrier for comprehension in deprived schools. This has affected the progress that the children should make in school.

There has been quite some progress over the last two decades in improving child survival and development. The Government of Ghana has implemented policies to increase access to these services. Moreover, it has provided fully paid maternity leave to mothers and is running programmes such as Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) cash transfer and Community-Based Health Planning and Services, which have helped more children survive. But a lot must be done. The Development communication plan should focus on closing the gap between the urban schools and the village schools. The plan and strategy are to be able to address issues of lack of teaching and learning resources, especially in remote areas, inadequate facilities, illiterate and or irresponsible parenthood- parents lack understanding of developmental stages of the child and providing for them accordingly.

The lack of financial wherewithal plays a major role in the irresponsibility of parents in providing for their children. Inadequate education on the part of the public about the relevance of early childhood education in the total educational setup should be part of the stakeholder’s suggestions. Sensitizing the public about the necessity of early childhood education should be the solution to most of the identified challenges.

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