Nairobi, Kenya, October 16-19, 2018: AfECN recognizes the importance of convening Early Childhood Development (ECD) stakeholders for the purpose of networking, knowledge sharing and exchange. The first ever-international ECD conference was hosted in collaboration with the Government of Kenya at The Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi. In attendance were over 800 delegates from 48 African Countries, 5 Continents, over 100 organizations including Government representatives from Ministries of Education, Health, and Social Protection; Civil Society Organizations, representatives of teachers unions, high level political representation, UN agencies, private sector, philanthropists, donor communities and academia. This inaugural event was aimed at bringing together global, regional, national and local public and private interest groups to disseminate evidence and share experiences aimed at enhancing and scaling good ECD practices across Africa and beyond.
His Excellency Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, C.G.H., President of The Republic of Kenya, officially opened the conference. In his opening remarks, President Kenyatta reiterated Government’s commitment to ensuring a strong start for all young children. He emphasized the important role that ECD plays in building sustainable economies and further called upon government ministries and key sectors to strengthen collaboration and ensure that all children have access to the services required for their holistic development.
Themed 'The Africa We Want: A Better Future Now', the conference provided an important platform for ECD stakeholders to deliberate on concrete actions in line with the vision and aspirations of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, the conference provided an opportunity to sensitize delegates on key global and regional initiatives including G20 Initiative for Early Childhood Development, the Nurturing Care Framework launched during the World Health Assembly in May 2018 as well as the Continental Education Strategy for Africa’s Early Childhood Education and Development Cluster CESA 16-25 ECED Cluster launched on 4th September, 2018.
“The overwhelming level of interest in this conference demonstrated that Early Childhood Development is truly on the Global and African agenda. This conference was indeed a unique opportunity for practitioners, especially those embedded in communities, to share their knowledge and experience with high-level decision makers. Our common goal remains to strengthen the voice of frontline workers for improved programming.” Dr Lynette Okengo, Executive Director, Africa Early Childhood Network (AfECN).
Through various interactive sessions, the conference enabled knowledge-exchange, skills development, with a strong focus on strengthening partnerships and building new collaborations to enhance ECD in the region. The conference included a total of 9 plenary sessions, 24 parallel sessions and 27 posters presentations. In addition, 4 regional meetings were conducted and five pre-conference skills development sessions were held.
Conference participants called upon all Governments and other stakeholders to:
Increase budgetary allocations towards early childhood programmes
Enhance access to high quality programmes and services especially for the vulnerable children
Develop and implement policies aimed at providing nurturing environments for all children
Adopt multi-sectoral and interdisciplinary approaches to programme implementation
Engage communities as ‘change agents’, in order to reach all children, particularly the hardest to reach.
Invest in empowering and incentivizing the early childhood workforce including early learning practitioners in various settings, community health workers and child protection officers
Build an evidence-base to guide development and implementation of policies, systems and programmes.
The conference culminated in the establishment of five regional Technical Working Groups (TWG’s) to ensure ongoing advocacy, programme support as well as knowledge generation, sharing and exchange. The TWG’s included: Safety and Security, National Networking, Responsive Caregiving, Research and Documentation as well as Leadership Development.