Sub-Saharan Africa Consultations in preparation for the 2nd World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education

The second World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education (WCECCE) ‘’Early Investment for Better Learning and Brighter Future’’ organized by UNESCO will be held on 14-16 November 2022 in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). It seeks to reaffirm the right of every young child to quality care and education from birth and urge Member States’ renewed commitment to and investment in the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 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 UNESCO intergovernmental meeting (Category II) will provide an important forum for policy learning and scale-up of proven programmes and innovations in ECCE across all regions and countries.

In preparation for this second WCECCE, two online sub-regional consultations were organized in Sub-Saharan Africa: one for West and Central Africa (7-8 July 2022), and another for Eastern and Southern Africa (12-13 July 2022) with the participation of H.E AU Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation; H.E. Minister of Education, Tertiary Education, Science and Technology and Vice-Prime Minister of Mauritius the ECOWAS Head of Education and Training.

A total of 48 countries[1] and more than 200 participants along with UNESCO Institutes (i.e., IBE, IIEP, IICBA), UN Agencies (i.e., ILO, UNICEF) and key stakeholders, such as representatives of civil society organizations and networks (Africa Early Childhood Network, EI), the private sector, academia (i.e., University of South Africa) and international and regional organizations (i.e., ECOWAS, SADC) participated in the sub-regional consultations.

The consultations provided an opportunity for countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and key partners to be informed about the global process for the 2nd WCECCE; to take stock of the situation and trends in pre-primary education; and to monitor progress towards the SDG 4.2 and the implementation of the African Union Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (CESA 16-25) objectives related to the early years’ education. They also identified during working groups the key achievements, challenges, opportunities as well as key priorities and recommendations under specific areas such as ‘’Inclusion, quality and well-being’’; ‘’ECCE quality workforce’’; ‘’Resilience and innovation’’; ‘’Financing, policy and governance’’, and finally ‘’COVID-19 and ECCE’’.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, pre-primary education has expanded from 15% to 32% (between 2000 and 2017). Despite these efforts, countries face persistent challenges in providing early education and care.  Some countries made efforts in developing related ECCE policies and framework but there are still for example lack of public financing, data, qualified teachers, and accountability. Access to pre-primary education in West and Central Africa is 29% and 24% in Eastern and Southern Africa (2019). Besides there are huge disparities between countries (e.g., Angola, Kenya, Malawi, Sao Tome and South Africa are above 70% and others below 30% and even below 10%); between urban and rural children (urban having more access); and between the level of the socio-economic situation (richer having more access).

Among strategies and recommendations discussed, building or improving the enabling environment has been stressed on, such as aligning policies with international standard, ensuring leadership, governance, monitoring and accountability. Other important points mentioned are the need for coordination among different sub-sectors, for curriculum implementation and assessment and workforce development and capacity building.

A Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) Consultation focusing on Member States is scheduled end September/early October 2022 to finalize the SSA regional outcome document that will reflect a consensus among SSA countries on their visions, key priorities, and recommendations with regard to ECCE that will be shared at the WCECCE in November 2022 in Tashkent.

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