The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and National Agricultural Export Development Board have launched a caregiving program for children whose parents are employed in tea plantations across the country.
The program dubbed ‘Employer-Supported Childcare’ is affiliated to Early Childhood Centers (ECD) program and aims at supporting a child in these critical early years by providing them with holistic access to early learning, good nutrition, hygiene and protection.
It was launched in Kigali on Friday 22.
“This report’s explicit focus and analysis on proving the business case for investing in childcare services should serve as a useful prompt to encourage private sector companies to rethink the drivers and impacts of these investments from a bottom-line perspective,” Julianna Lindsey, UNICEF’s Country Representative said.
“When they do, and when the workforce responds, private sector and community childcare examples can serve to encourage the public sector to proactively engage in supporting systemic solutions to the childcare crisis.”
According to reports from the two partners, parents who place their children in the employer-supported childcare centers have higher productivity rates than those who do not.
The report adds that a tea plucker who places his/her children in the employer-supported childcare centers plucks an average of 81kilograms, but those who do not pluck about 31kilograms.
“The battle against inadequate childcare requires joint efforts from different partners. The solidarity between public and private stakeholders is key in achieving our children’s full potential and wellbeing,” Professor Jeannette Bayisenge, Minister of Gender and Family Promotion said.
The National Early Childhood Development program (NECDP) for 2018-2024 targets to have every child get the best start in life and the opportunity to thrive in life.
The NECDP report says a child’s brain develops rapidly during the early years and lost opportunities might never be redeemed.
The report adds that the first three years of life are crucial for optimal development and it is during this period that 80% of a child’s brain grows.
“It is therefore imperative that deliberate efforts are made to give children the chance to grow up in an environment conducive to the development process. A comprehensive approach to providing this environment is the Early Childhood Development (ECD) Program,” the report adds.
“This is concerned with the child’s holistic development and therefore covers not only early learning and stimulation, but also other areas including health, nutrition, and hygiene and sanitation.”
Despite the global and national importance of ECD, the accessibility of services in Rwanda is still low. The reported preschool enrollment rate for 3-6 years was 20.8% in 2018, according to the Ministry of Education report.
The NECDP mapping report shows that only 1% of children under three years in the country received any form of ECD services.
“The childcare program must have enhanced benefits for Rwandans,” Sandrine Urujeni, the Chief Operations Officer of NAEB said.
“We will continue working hand in hand with all development partners to ensure the childcare program is adopted on a big scale and is sustainable. We pledge to increase awareness about its benefits and encourage public and private investors to engage in this important and necessary program.”