Investing in Early Years for Optimum Human Capital Development

Background  

Rwanda recognizes early childhood development as one of the pillars of human capital development and sustainable development. Early Childhood Development (ECD) refers to a comprehensive approach to policies and programs for children from 0 to 6 years of age, their parents and caregivers. Lifetime behavior patterns are formed during this period when brain development is most active. As such, what happens or does not happen during these early years of a child’s life, influences their growth and development outcomes as well as opportunities in adulthood. As children acquire the ability to speak, learn and reason in early years, cornerstones are laid and later affect their orientation to development and thriving in life.

Investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity later in life. Today, millions of young children are not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress. In Rwanda 38% of children are stunted, which hinder their future productivity and the productivity of our nation. Investments in the physical, mental, and emotional development of children –from before birth until they enter primary school – is critical for the future productivity of individuals and for the economic competitiveness of nations.

Considering the value of ECD, the Government of Rwanda developed a comprehensive ECD Policy (2016), Food and Nutrition Policy (2013-2018) and other child development related policies, offering government orientation on interventions to support children’s full physical, cognitive, language, social, emotional and psychological development. The policy is aligned with renewed government commitments under the EDPRS II (2013-18), the National Strategy for Transformation (NST) (2017-2023), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the revised Vision 2020 targets.

To provide a good start to our children, Rwanda has planned to increase the access to ECD services from the current 13% to 45% by 2024. Similarly, it intends to reduce stunting from 38% to 19% during the same period.

For the past 2 years, the Ministry of Gender and Family Promotion has hosted an Early Childhood Development Symposium aligned with the celebrations of the Day of African Child. ECD conference has become a platform for sharing expertise and achievements in early childhood development for the benefit of all ECD stakeholders in Rwanda. This inaugural conference on ECD will focus on the contribution of early childhood development in human capital development from a scientific perspective.

Objectives of the conference

· To share evidence on local and international findings on research on early childhood development

·  To bring awareness on the importance of early childhood development investment for the human capital development

·  To strengthen multi-sectoral and international partnerships for early childhood development

·  To bring awareness to home-grown solutions to bridge the gap for ECD

·  To highlight areas of possible research collaboration (e.g. nutrition, early stimulation,  health,…)

3. Conference Sub Themes

For the inaugural conference of National Early Childhood Development Program, we are seeking proposal submissions which address lessons learned, best practices, and home grown solutions. We are particular interested in papers that emphasize cross cutting themes such as innovation, gender and disability within the following sub themes.

Sub Themes:

1. Benefits of ECD and Development

· Stunting

· Parenting Education

· Nutrition

· Early Stimulation

· WASH

· Health – Maternal and Child Health

· Impact on human development throughout the life course (primary school outcomes, workforce productivity, peace building, economy, etc.)

2. Workforce

·  Cost of program implementation and delivery

·  Utilizing Volunteer Workforces

·  Delivery Models

·  Quality Control Methods

3. Coordination Management

·  Grassroots

·  Private/Public/Religious Based Organisations Partnerships

·  Policy

·  Efficiency and Effectiveness of Programs

·  Advocacy, Impact and Accountability

 4. Pedagogical approaches to ECD

·  Holistic Child Development

·  Science of Early Stimulation and Play

·  Curriculum development

·  Training and delivery mechanisms

·  Information Communications and Technology

Participation to the conference

The conference will welcome 300 participants for the event.  Participants will include:

· National and International ECD Practitioners

· Development partners

· International NGOs

· Civil Society

· Academia

· Social cluster Ministries/Agencies

· Members of Senate and Parliament

· Local Government (Governors, District Mayors and Vice Mayors)

· Religious Based Organisations

· Private Sector Federation (PSF) representatives

· Media

 Expected results of the ECD Conference

· Increase knowledge on best practices for ECD implementation

· Strengthen advocacy for ECD investment at government and community level

· Strengthen multi-sectoral, regional and international partnerships for research and implementation of ECD

·  Formulate recommendations for policy makers in the sectors of health, agriculture, health and education