The Africa Early Childhood Network (AfECN) is a registered non-profit, established in 2015 to serve as a platform to champion excellence and collaboration in protecting children's rights, influence policy and practice, strengthen partnerships, and share experiences and knowledge in ECD on the African continent. The network is comprised of organisations from civil society, academia, government, and the private sector at national and regional levels.

 

Our Vision

All young children in Africa are safe, healthy, happy and achieving their full potential.

Our Mission

To serve as a platform for the promotion of excellence and collaboration in protecting children's rights, influencing policy and practice through advocacy, strengthened partnership and sharing of experience and knowledge.

Our Core Values

1. Accountability
2. Teamwork
3. Integrity
4. Innovation
5. Rights-based

The Africa Early Childhood Network was created to develop and advance coherent ECD policy development and implementation throughout the African continent. Harnessing the diversity of strong civil society organizations delivering critical programming and advocacy for young children, AfECN strengthens impact through coordinated action, driven in close collaboration and consultation with key stakeholders.

 

What is ECD?

Early Childhood Development, or ECD, is a holistic set of multi-sectoral services and programmes that support a child's development from prenatal to age eight. These include:

  • nurturing care;
  • healthcare;
  • clean water and sanitation;
  • nutrition;
  • play and early learning;
  • and child protection

Research shows that over 90% of a child’s brain develops by the time they reach age five. Nutrition, care, and cognitive stimulation in these early years are critical to building a foundation for a child to survive and thrive and realize their full potential. Building this foundation leads to a healthy and educated society, in which citizens are better able to participate and contribute to the social and economic well being of their communities.

Children who are unable to access the critical support they need to fully develop are placed at a distinct disadvantage, with lifetime lasting impacts to both child and society.

Sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest rate of access to pre-primary education in the world, and by 2020, will be home to an estimated 45% of all malnourished children — where a child is already more than fifteen times more likely to die before reaching the age of five than a child from a high-income region. Lack of political will to implement ECD policies, weak coordination and partnership, limited knowledge and contextual evidence, and a lack of support to ECD programming remain crucial barriers to delivering quality, holistic ECD services to all children in Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

How We Work

The Africa Early Childhood Network brings together national and regional civil society organizations and networks, academia, entrepreneurs, and the private sector, in a collaborative effort towards improving outcomes and creating increased access to quality ECD services for all children in sub-Saharan Africa. The network works to build and support communities of practice in key areas such as advocacy, research, leadership, and information exchange.

Board of Directors

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Lynette Okengo
Executive Director

Lynette Okengo, PhD serves as the Executive Director of the Africa Early Childhood Network. Dr. Okengo is an early childhood development expert whose professional experience spans policy and strategy development, program design and evaluation as well as advocacy and capacity building.

Prior to her work with AfECN, Dr. Okengo held positions as a Senior Technical Advisor and Consultant for the Open Society Foundations, the World Bank, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Regional Office, PATH and Save the Children, among others. A major focus of her work across the region has been the design of strategies to enhance the work of governments, parents and teachers in providing the best possible environment especially for poor and marginalized children. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work, serving twice as a Salzburg Fellow, twice as the Africa Team Coordinator for the World Forum for Early Care and Education and a Senior Fellow - Early Childhood Development for Children's Investment Fund Foundation.

Dr. Okengo has over 12 years of experience teaching at the university level, and has authored and presented widely on early childhood development programming in the region. She holds a PhD in Early Childhood Studies from Kenyatta University.

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Joan Lombardi
Advisor Emeritus

Joan Lombardi PhD is an international expert on child development and social policy. She currently serves as Senior Advisor to the Bernard van Leer Foundation on global child development strategies and to the Buffett Early Childhood Fund on national initiatives. Dr. Lombardi also directs Early Opportunities LLC, focusing on innovation, policy and philanthropy, and since 2016, has served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and a Senior Advisor to the Center for the Study of Social Policy.

Over the past 40 years, Dr. Lombardi has made significant contributions in the areas of child and family policy as an innovative leader and policy advisor to national and international organizations and foundations and as a public servant.  She served in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the first Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development (2009-2011) in the Obama Administration, and as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and External Affairs in Administration for Children and Families and the first Commissioner of the Child Care Bureau among other positions (l993-1998) during the Clinton Administration. Outside of public service, she served as the founding chair of the Birth to Five Policy Alliance (now the Alliance for Early Success) and as the founder of Global Leaders for Young Children.

Dr. Lombardi is the author of numerous publications including Time to Care: Redesigning Child Care to Promote Education, Support Families and Build Communities and Co-Author of Beacon of Hope: The Promise of Early Head Start for America’s Youngest Children. She serves as the President of the Board of 1000 Days, a member of the Board of Trustees of Save the Children and as a member of Investing in Young Children Globally, a project of the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council.

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Prof. Kofi Marfo
Chair of the Board

Kofi Marfo, PhD is a professor and Founding Director of the Institute for Human Development at Aga Khan University where he is co-leader of an initiative to support child development research capacity-building in Africa and is a co-convener of the African Scholars in Child/Early Child Development Workshop series. He is a member of the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development and serves in advisory roles for two private foundations with substantial investments in early childhood development.

Previously, Professor Marfo taught educational psychology for more than two decades at the University of South Florida, holding leadership positions such as Director of the Doctoral Program in Special Education, and Director of the Interdisciplinary Post-Doctoral Fellowship Program in School Restructuring. He has worked as a researcher and lecturer in a number of universities across the globe including University of Cape Coast, Ghana, the University of Alberta, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, and Kent State University.

Professor Marfo has been published extensively in the areas of early childhood intervention, childhood disability, parent-child interaction, and early childhood development and has been has been cited across these disciplines in over 180 different journals worldwide. Professor Marfo holds a PhD in Education from the University of Alberta.

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Prof. Linda Richter

Professor Linda Richter PhD is a Distinguished Professor and the Director of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) - National Research Foundation (NRF) Centre of Excellence in Human Development at the University of the Witwatersrand. She is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Human Sciences Research Council and an advisor to the World Health Organization in Geneva on early child development.

Previously, Prof. Richter served in a number of academic posts including as a Visiting Researcher at the University of Melbourne, a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University, and a Research Associate in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford. From 2010-2012 she worked as Advisor on Vulnerable Children at the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria in Geneva.

Prof. Richter has conducted both basic and policy research in the fields of child, youth and family development as applied to health, education, welfare and social development, and has published more than 400 papers and chapters. In 2016, she chaired the Steering Committee for the production of the Lancet series on early child development: Advancing Early Child Development: From Science to Scale. She holds a PhD in Psychology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal.

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Aster Haregot

Aster Haregot is an expert international development consultant specialized in the creation of national ECD policy and strategic development, as well as capacity building. She is currently working with several international development agencies and government ministries to provide advisory support in the development of sound ECD policy.

Previously, Ms. Haregot worked as an advisor to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI) and served as the UNICEF Regional ECD Advisor for Eastern and Southern Africa, pioneering the early childhood program in the area and managing the African Girls’ Education Initiative (AGEI) from the New York headquarters before being posted to Nairobi. An educator by profession, she worked for the Head Start Programme in the US and at the Ministry of Education and Children’s’ Commission in Ethiopia prior to her UN experience.

Ms. Haregot is a board member of the Forum of African Women Educationalist (FAWE), and holds a Master of Education from Rutgers University.

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Maggie Kamau

Maggie Kamau-Biruri is an international development specialist with more than 15 years of experience. She currently serves as the Director of Partnerships at the YALI Regional Leadership Center for East Africa, working with Deloitte.

Before joining Deloitte, Ms. Kamau-Biruri worked as Senior Resource Mobilization Officer at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), where she raised more than $50 million from private foundations, donor governments and the private sector. Prior to her service at AGRA, she worked as the Africa Regional Director for the International Child Resource Institute. As Regional Director, Ms. Kamau-Biruri led the design and development of programs in the areas of child protection, economic opportunity for youth and women, and early childhood education. Maggie began her work in the sector in the San Francisco Bay Area where she was an active speaker, advisor and thought leader in the vibrant international development community.

Ms. Kamau-Biruri serves on several international nonprofit Boards including Thriive Inc., and Harambee Arts. She holds a Master in Public Administration from California State University.

Kenya

Name of Network: ECDNek
Date of Establishment: September 2015
History: The Kenya ECD network (ECDNeK) was formed to fill a gap in the coordination of institutions and organizations dealing with the provision, capacity development, and advocacy of early childhood development in Kenya.

Membership is open to organizations working in the Kenyan ECD space. Founding members include Kenyatta University, World Vision Kenya, Aga Khan Foundation (East Africa) Save the Children International, International Child Resource Institute, Parenting In Africa, Kidogo, Little Rock, Build Africa, Research Triangle Institute (RTI) International KANCO, PATH, and Child Fund.

Key Achievements:

  • With funding from AfECN, developed a mapping of actors, experts and resources in the Kenyan ECD space
  • Developed a 5-year strategic plan for the period of 2017-2021
  • Actively participating in ongoing curriculum reforms through a policy review position paper for the national government
  • Engaged high-level government officials in relation to:
    1. ECD Policy Review (Cabinet Secretary Education)
    2. Legal framework (Senate Committee of Education)
    3. County legal and policy makers (MCAs, Directors of ECD, CECs in Education)

Long-term Plans:

  • Influence an enabling policy environment for ECD
  • Influence increased investment and accountability for ECD through budget analysis
  • Strengthen the coordination of ECD initiatives through linking and developing the capacity of members and ECD stakeholders

Lesotho

Name of Network: Network of ECD of Lesotho
Date of Establishment: November 2016
History: The Network of ECD of Lesotho was founded in November of 2016 to advocate for effective ECD policy and practice in Lesotho. Membership is comprised of key stakeholders in the Lesotho ECD community.

Key Achievements:

  • Secured 20 members in less than 3 months of existence
  • Developed strong and collaborative relationships collaboration with high-level government officials and units
  • Developed a draft constitution
  • Established a board of trustees
  • Established a steering committee

Long-term Plans:

  • Increase capacity building efforts to properly manage funding
  • Further organizational development in relation to donor relations and fundraising
  • Increase networking and marketing of the organization globally

Liberia

Name of Network: Liberia Early Childhood Professional Network
Date of Establishment: Currently undergoing registration
History: The Liberia Early Childhood Professional Network was founded by educators, but is comprised of a diversity of members including social worker, nutritionists, caregivers, private entrepreneurs, and health and dental professionals. The network is currently in the process of registering.

Key Achievements:

  • Contributed to the development of the “National Advocacy and Communication Strategy” for ECD in Liberia

Long-term Plans:

  • Raise ECD awareness
  • Work with communities to establish ECD centres
  • Serve as a watch dog for effective ECD practice
  • Train caregivers

Malawi

Name of Network: The Malawi Early Childhood Development Coalition (ECDC)
History: The Malawi Early Childhood Development Coalition has a mandate to advocate for the delivery of quality ECD services for all children in Malawi. The network strives to fulfill its mandate through advocacy, research, capacity building, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation, and partnership for national development.

Membership is comprised of national and international NGOs, private institutions, civil society organizations, and individuals implementing early childhood development and education activities in the country. Membership is voluntary and based on annual subscription.

Key Achievements:

  • Played a significant role in advocating for increased budgetary allocation to the Department responsible for child development and education, securing and additional 900MK per year over the past three years

Long-term Plans:

  • Lobby for additional budgetary allocation for ECD
  • Advocate for increased access to quality early childhood services
  • Support capacity building of ECD practitioners at various levels
  • Promote parent education
  • Enhance community participation and ownership of ECD interventions
  • Provide technical support to ECD partners

Mozambique

Name of Network: Early Childhood Development Network Mozambique
Date of Establishment: August 2014
History: The Mozambique Early Childhood Development Network was formed to advocate for comprehensive ECD services in Mozambique. Membership includes both national and international civil society organizations. as well as academic institutions. Sub branches of the network have also been established in Maputo, Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala, Manica and Tete.

Key Achievements:

  • Developed the network conceptual framework, action plan for 2015-2018, Facebook page and website
  • Established a common glossary of concepts and language among network members and ECD stakeholders in Mozambique
  • Hosted the third national ECD conference
  • Published an advocacy letter on the right to pre-school education
  • Created a joint working group of civil society organisations working in pre-school and INDE to centralize available tools

Long-term Plans:

  • Strengthen network capacity and improve the member participation
  • Map national ECD stakeholders, policies and resources
  • Improve knowledge management and exchange among members
  • Develop an advocacy strategy for a holistic national ECD policy
  • Strengthen resource raising capacity
  • Extend network representation countrywide

Nigeria

Name of Network: Foundation for the Promotion of Childhood Care and Development in Nigeria
Date of Establishment: December 2016
History: The Foundation for the Promotion of Childhood Care and Development in Nigeria is a conglomeration of over 70 ECD related NGOs, individuals, and experts with an ambition to undertake locally relevant activities benefiting Nigerian children. Membership is open to both organizations and individuals.

Key Achievements:

  • Facilitated the sponsorship of ECD activities in Lagos and Kwara states through the establishment of sound government and media contacts
  • Trained and provided support materials for 30 caregivers in the Southwest and North Central regions on ECD policy, resulting in increased teaching and learning performance levels
  • Developed and distributed advocacy materials that have effectively increased partnership in ECD and successfully engaged and educated government and media outlets on the topic
  • Cultivated a membership of over 70 NGOs and individuals
  • Officially registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission of Nigeria, Economic & Financial Crime Commission, and SCUML, the Special Control Unit against Money Laundering
  • Created a network logo that is ready for launch at national and state levels

Long-term Plans:

  • Develop a steering committee and a strategic plan
  • Building capacity in donor relations and fundraising activities
  • Establish a national ECD programme profile through advocacy, education, and the development of ECD resources for teachers and parents

Rwanda

Name of Network: Rwanda Education NGO Coordination Platform (RENCP)
Date of Establishment: 2013
History: Rwanda Education NGO Coordination Platform (RENCP) was founded in 2013 to advocate for effective ECD policy and practice in Rwanda. Membership includes both national and international civil society organisations, as well as academic institutions.

Key Achievements:

  • Participated in the policy and strategy review as well as ECD minimum standards. (2015-2016)
  • Participated in the development of ECD curricula
  • Took part in the monitoring and evaluation of ECD services in Rwanda
  • Involved in the research of minimum cost standards for ECD
  • Conducted an advocacy training for members
  • Developed learning trips to share best practices
  • Conducted joint fundraising efforts among member organisations Participated in the Global Leaders Forum (ICRI)

Long-term Plans:

  • Increase capacity building and advocacy efforts to target inclusive ECD centre designs
  • Coordinate member advocacy efforts to increase budget allocation to ECD
  • Engage the Ministry of Education Build capacity of network members

Senegal

Name of Network: National Network of Actors for ECD in Senegal (Renadape)
Date of Establishment: October 2015
History: RENADPE was founded to address disparities and the lack of diversity in ECD interventions in Senegal. The network was established on the basis of a discussion conducted during a regional workshop “Advancing the agenda for the development of Early Childhood in Africa” held in May, 2013. Great support and political will for the network is displayed in the Quality, Equity and Transparency Improvement Program (PAQUET 2013-2025), which supports the diversification of alternative models of ECD delivery for children ages 3-5.

Membership is guided by a steering committee and executive committee.

Key Achievements:

  • Organized a validation workshop based off of the founding texts of the network
  • Co-organized the forum on the contributions of ECD actors at the Summit for Education and Training
  • Conducted several Network Constituent General Assemblies
  • Organized multiple workshops on the development of yearly network action plans
  • Organized several workshops on strengthening the advocacy capacity of network members and government partners
  • Lobbied and advocated for the development of comprehensive ECD policy during the Presidential Council at the conclusion of the Summit for Education and Training
  • Held a press conference attended by 20 media outlets
  • Secured a grant from AfECN that allowed the mapping of ECD actors, experts, and a review of resources in Senegal
  • Participated in the launch of the Lancet review with the Prime Minister, National Agency of ECD, UNICEF, WB, UNESCO, and New York University
  • Participated in the national workshop for the general policy of education in Senegal
  • Participated in the ADEA Triennale

Long-term Plans:

  • Promote ECD throughout Senegal to increase access to quality ECD services
  • Create inter-sectoral collaboration and partnerships among ECD stake holders
  • Strengthen the capacity building of civil society organizations and ECD stakeholders
  • Strengthen national networking through formation of sub regional branches
  • Build the fundraising, organizational development, and donor relations capacity of the network

Swaziland

Name of Network: Swaziland Network for Early Childhood Development (SNECD)
Date of Establishment: June 2014
History: The Swaziland Network for Early Childhood Development (SNECD) was established as Global Leaders’ project, and implemented with the support of the World Forum Foundation for Early Care and Education. The network’s formation was necessitated by the lack of a national coordinating body for ECD in Swaziland. Membership includes organizations delivering ECD, training institutions, and individuals with interest in ECD.

Key Achievements:

  • Held a national, multi-sectoral conference on ECD
  • Created a mapping of ECD stakeholders and researchers in Swaziland
  • Developed a profile of ECD in Swaziland
  • Supported the development of an advocacy strategy for parents of children with disabilities
  • Developed a five-year strategy, action plan, and work plan
  • Organized monthly coordination meetings

Long-term Plans:

  • Promote ECD throughout Swaziland to increase access to quality services for all children
  • Create a platform for the exchange of ideas and strategies to share knowledge and improve on best practices
  • Promote ECD research and more widely disseminate findings to better link members of the network to global trends
  • Strengthen capacity and enhance collaboration of civil society organizations, government ministries, training institutions and ECD centers

Tanzania

Name of Network: Tanzania Early Childhood Development Network (TECDEN)
Date of Establishment: June 2004
History: The Tanzania Early Childhood Development Network (TECDEN) is an umbrella network of ECD civil society organizations that work in partnership to influence and change policies, programs, and practices impacting the holistic development of young children in Tanzania. Membership entails both local and international organizations working to improve the wellbeing of young children in the country. TECDEN is comprised of 238 member organizations organized into 18 regional chapters throughout the administrative regions of Tanzania mainland and Zanzibar.

Key Achievements:

  • Recognized by the government as the representative of all ECD activities in the country
  • Established regional chapters in 18 administrative regions in both mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar with a total of 238 member organisations
  • Led continuing advocacy for an integrated ECD policy
  • Advocated for inclusion of ECD activities in Mkukuta
  • Built ECD advocacy capacity of member organisations and stakeholders with local context in mind

Long-term Plans:

  • Promote ECD throughout Tanzania to increase access to quality ECD services
  • Create inter-sectoral collaboration and partnerships among ECD stakeholders
  • Strengthen national networking through the formation of sub-regional branches
  • Build the fundraising, organizational development, and donor relations capacity of the network

Uganda

Name of Network: National Integrated ECD Secretariat Uganda
Date of Establishment: September 2016
History: The National Integrated ECD Secretariat Uganda was founded in 2016 to advocate for effective ECD policy and practice in Uganda. Membership includes government, civil society organisations, the private sector, and media.

Key Achievements:

  • Disseminated IECD policy to 26 of 116 local governments
  • Established a national ECD stakeholders forum
  • Conducted ECD advocacy campaigns at the community level
  • Integrated WASH curriculum in HFS, Schools
  • Incorporated ECD in national planning guidelines, national food security and nutrition guidelines

Long-term Plans:

  • Advocate for additional investment and accountability for ECD through budgetary analysis
  • Strengthen the coordination of ECD initiatives through capacity development of members and stakeholders
  • Building the capacity of the secretariat through organizational development

Zimbabwe

Name of Network: Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood Development Actors (ZINECDA)
Date of Establishment: August 2012
History: The Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood Development Actors (ZINECDA) was founded to address the lack of standardization of services, infrastructure and other facilities for early childhood development in Zimbabwe. The formation of the network grew from an idea put forth by the Nhaka Foundation. Four founding members serve as the network's trustees, including the Nhaka Foundation, the Child Protection Society, the Child Resource Institute of Zimbabwe and the J.F Kapnek Trust. ZINECDA is registered Trust, MA 974/2012, with the four organizations as founding Trustees. Membership of the network has grown from to over 152 members countrywide.

Key Achievements:

  • Initiated an exploration of network members’ synergies, strengths and weaknesses
  • Participated in a multi-stakeholder platform to bring funding partners and government together to discuss ECD funding and programming
  • Developed a Standards, Guidelines and Procedures Manual to guide centres in fulfilling their mandates and promote efficiency in their registration and statutory compliance
  • Developed a mapping of ECD actors, resources and experts
  • Engaged key stakeholders at sub-national and local levels in ECD policy dialogues

Long-term Plans:

  • Strengthen the coordination of ECD initiatives through linking and developing the capacity development of members and ECD stakeholders
  • Foster a healthy, enabling environment for the development of sound ECD policy