Outcry over ECD poor funding

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education chairperson Torerai Moyo

UNDERFUNDING of early childhood development (ECD) education has riled Members of Parliament amid revelations that Zimbabwe has 17 000 ECD classrooms out of the required 30 000.

Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education chairperson Torerai Moyo said the provision of basic education was lagging behind because of a constrained fiscal space.

“As a country, we are still lagging behind in terms of providing free access to basic education. This has been mainly attributed to the constrained fiscal space coupled with this volatile environment, which makes budgetary commitment difficult to meet,” said Moyo during an event to celebrate the International Day of the African Child organised by Parliament and the Zimbabwe Network of Early Childhood Development Actors (ZINECDA).

“While the education budget continues to receive the biggest portion of the national budget, my committee still notes with concern the gross underfunding of ECD education in Zimbabwe. The parents and guardians continue to play a pivotal role in the funding of ECD education.”

He said Parliament had considered the adoption of the Tashkent Declaration of November 16, 2022, which highlights the commitment to action for transforming early childhood care and education.

The Tashkent Declaration recognises that inequalities and disparities continue to persist throughout the life of a child in development and life-long learning.

“We are completely seized with this matter of enhancing equal access to ECD education. It is our hope that once the report is tabled in Parliament, it will stimulate debate that, in turn, will strengthen ECD funding policy in Zimbabwe,” Moyo said.

He said the Zimbabwe school financing policy has been outstanding for a long time, but hoped that the finalisation of the policy would improve ECD funding.

“ECD education in Zimbabwe remains largely underfunded and yet it is the foundation of childhood development. Access to education in the early years of life provides the building blocks for educational achievement, economic productivity, responsible citizenship and successful parenting of the next generation. Therefore, access to basic education as a human right must be honoured by the government,” he said.

Urging stakeholders to come up with proposals and justifications that will support ECD funding in Zimbabwe, he added: “It is my prayer that in the near future, the mantra ‘education for all’ will be become a reality with no child lagging behind.”

ZINECDA national co-ordinator Naison Bhunu said Parliament should make sure that ECD learning is included in the budget processes.

“Financing of ECD has not been enough. Treasury has not been allocating adequate funds for ECD education. The cake is now very small, 2% is not enough since the majority of it is going to salaries. There is need to consider domestic funding for ECD,” Bhunu said.

“There is need for a fund just like the Aids Levy, which we can use to directly go to education funding or ECD funding. It has been done somewhere.”

He expressed concern that facilities at most of the ECD institutions were not friendly for learners or those with special needs.

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