Assessing early childhood development policy, its progress and challenges in implementation

Accra June 23, GNA - Evidence shows that before children turn three years old, mothers spend more than eight hours of their time engaged in childcare whilst balancing other economic work.

The effects of Unpaid Care Work, which refers to the domestic workload placed on women such as cooking, washing, fetching water, taking care of children and sick family members, etc., cannot be overestimated on their time use.

Childhood development
It is one of the biggest contributory factors to time poverty, social discrimination and the low economic livelihood activities that affects majority of women across the world

Ghana has ratified several conventions and 1992 Constitution in support of care work.

Article 27, clause 2 in the 1992 constitution of Ghana provides that, “facilities shall be provided for the care of children below school going age to enable women, who have the traditional care for children, realised their full potential”.

This provision supports the enactment of many policies and laws in Ghana such as the Children’s Act, the Child and Family Welfare Policy and the Early Childhood Care and Development Policy (ECCD) among many other policy interventions.

The ECCD policy was enacted in 2004 in response to the need to provide a guide for government and all stakeholders to promote survival, development, and protection for children from birth to age eight. It also emphasized integrating and coordinating services, among other strategies, for achieving the policy’s goals and objectives.

Nurturing Care Framework for Early Childhood Development
Ghana was the first country in the world to launch its, ‘Nurturing Care Framework for Early Childhood Development.” The framework has five components; good health, adequate nutrition, opportunities for early learning, security and safety as well as responsive care-giving.

The implementation of the ECCD policy in Ghana has increased awareness on young children’s issues, roles of duty bearers and improved some level of collaboration and coordination among the ministries and departments concerned.

It has also improved the capacity of a wide range of stakeholders – health professionals, teachers, social workers, community leaders, policy makers, and some parents – on child care issues while increasing awareness on the importance of the early years and investment in ECCD.

Even though the policy has made significant progress, there are many challenges in its implementation, some of which include; inadequate resources, weak inter-sectoral collaboration, non-recognition of the role of mothers in caring for children making the policy silent on unpaid care work, and inadequate coordination among others.

Child Care as a major component of unpaid Care Work
Adoption of time use tracking sheets for both men and women by ActionAid Ghana over the last six years indicates that child care centres for children from 0-3 years improved the performance of children at the KG and primary school levels.

Mothers and teachers who had their children at child care centres testified that their children were more assertive.

As a result, they were provided with more time to engage in economic activities to earn income and partake in community decision-making processes.

Using research through time diaries to analyse the activities of 600 mothers and 300 men over the period showed that child care alone takes more than eight hours of a woman’s time with majority of women 75 per cent combining child care with other domestic and care-related activities such as cooking, washing, shopping for family consumption, collection of fuelwood, farming, adult care, and trading.

There is the need for various stakeholders not to recognize and participate in redistributing and reducing women’s work load through provisions of services such as water facilities, low-cost child-care centres, community clinics and several other infrastructures and services to reduce women’s time poverty.

ActionAid Ghana has established child care centres in eight districts in Ghana namely; Nanumba North and South in the Northern Region, Tain and Asutifi South in the Brong Ahafo Region, Talensi and Nabdam in the Upper East region and the Adaklu districts in the Volta region.

Some of the communities that benefited from this project include; Gbare, Bolni, Kanjo, and Tizza.

Objectives of Centres
The main objective for providing these centres to women in selected communities was to reduce the time women spend on child care and free them time for income-generating activities and other activities of interest and beneficial to them, which has yielded dual effects in supporting mothers and promoting child growth.

The management of the centres are community-based and less expensive that it can easily be replicated by district assemblies in rural areas to support redistribution and reduction of Unpaid Care Work.

Whilst ActionAid has played this crucial rule to support mothers in accessing early learning for their children and redistribution of care burden, other actors in the care sector are not sharing the burden adequately.

ActionAid, through ECDD programming work, has uncovered that the major constraint to promotion of child centres is the sustainability in providing care givers’ allowances or some financial support to ensure that the children are catered for.

Policy recommendations and way forward
There is the need for the review of the ECCD policy and other related documents.

This reviewed policy should take cognizance of the time spent by women and girls in childcare and provide enough investment strategies to reduce the child care burden on women.

This will promote women’s productivity in agriculture, be it farming, service, and industry-related activities.

Additionally, it should as well support mothers who want to further their education while giving them peace of mind that their children will be well cared for in low cost and affordable centres.

Community-managed child care centres for children from 0-3 years should be a priority for Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs); ensuring that their medium-term development plans capture the initiatives.

In instances where development partners like ActionAid and Lively Minds provide support to communities, government should take steps to provide stipends for community volunteers.

There is the need to strengthen collaboration and coordination between various public and private sector agencies responsible for effective implementation of the ECCD policy and support interventions by Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to promote the implementation of the policy.

Intensifying advocacy and raising awareness by CSO and various groups to ensure its effective adoption and collective ownership of the centres by all responsible institutions concerned is paramount to ensuring a successful ECCD policy implementation.

Finally, there is also a strong need for a well-structured and comprehensive education programme on child care responsibility and the responsibility of all stakeholders – from households members, especially men and boys, to the private sector and non-governmental organizations but most importantly, public institutions – in guaranteeing this.