The Minister of Gender and Family Promotion on Tuesday called for investments in the physical, mental, and emotional development of children until they enter primary school, saying it is critical for the future productivity of individuals as well as economic competitiveness of nations.
Opening an International Conference on Early Childhood Development in Kigali, Soline Nyirahabimana said Rwanda recognizes early childhood development as one of the pillars of human capital development and sustainable development.
Rwanda targets to increase access to early childhood development services of adequate nutrition, early learning, and exposure to adequate hygiene and sanitation from 13 percent currently to 45 percent by 2024, according to the ministry.
The period between 0 to 6 years of age is critical because lifetime behavior patterns are formed during early years, when brain development is most active, said Nyirahabimana.
She explained that what happens or does not happen during early years of a child’s life, influences their growth and development outcomes as well as opportunities in adulthood.
Investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty later in life, she said.
Early childhood development according to experts entails a comprehensive approach to policies and programs for children from 0 to 6 years of age, their parents and caregivers.
Currently millions of young children are not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to inadequate hygiene and sanitation, according to Nyirahabimana.
In Rwanda 38 percent of under 5 children are stunted, which hinder their future productivity and the productivity of the nation, according to the ministry.
The minister urged participants to use their expertise to advise the continent and the whole world on how to raise children since conception and early birth, for their full potential growth and human capital development as well.
Anita Asiimwe, the national coordinator of Rwanda’s National Early Childhood Development Program called on parents to play their role in child care, including preparing children for school and facilitating their better growth.
The two-day conference attracted about 300 delegates from the public sector, development partners, academia and civil society from Rwanda and beyond.
It is held under the theme: “Investing in early years for optimum human capital development.”
The forum aims at strengthening exchange of ideas and expertise as well as strengthening partnerships for in early childhood development.
It is also expected to increase knowledge of best practices and strengthen advocacy for early childhood development investment at government and community levels.
Rwanda developed a National Early Childhood Development Program (NECDP) in 2017, a comprehensive early childhood development policy, then Food and Nutrition Policy (2013-2018) and other child development related initiatives, to demonstrate the value attached to early childhood development.