How other African countries can learn from Zambia’s management of early childhood education

They say if you have been to one African country then you have been to all of them. That is debatable but I tend to think it could be right when it comes to matters governance and social issues. That Early Childhood Development is an important issue cannot be overemphasized but sadly, most African countries do not take it seriously as they should. Take the county of Zambia for instance where the provision of Early Childhood Care Development/ECD/Early Childhood Education was mainly through the private sector and   guided by pre-independence legal systems that may not necessarily apply to present days.

According to Henry Kabwe, the Executive Director Media Network On Child Rights and Development Zambia, ECD does not get commitment from politicians as the electorate does not push for it.

While speaking at the First AfECN International Conference on Early Childhood Development that concluded last week at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi, Habwe said that the government elaborated access to ECCDE/ECE in its party manifesto in 2008.

“In the manifesto, it promised to provide and facilitate early childhood education centers and teachers in all local government wards in Zambia, Directorate of ECE, include harmonized curriculum and have centers in various primary schools opened. Sadly, there was not much happening around this,” said Kabwe.

To counter this problem, Kabwe, through his organization came up with communication and advocacy tools that have since turned the situation around in the country.

Here are some of them,

  1. Media

Advocacy about policy should be accompanied by awareness for citizens to place demand; justice should be seen to be done. Media plays a crosscutting role in its duty to inform, educate and entertain and without media; there would be no governance or interventions. Media covers all the nurturing care components of ECD and promotes integration when the media players are empowered do to so.

 In order to contribute to improved access to ECE, MNCRD, as a member of the ECCDE thematic committee of Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) partnered with the Ministry of (Education) to sensitize people on the importance of ECE through bus campaigns, ran radio shows, has produced a documentary to be aired on Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) and Muvi TV and is working on producing IRI with DODE (EBS).

Apart from the radio shows that were done alongside the bus campaigns, a number of radio shows were done on Radio Two, Radio One and Radio Phoenix. Radio Two targeted the people that understand English but are spread across the nation, Radio One targeted people in remote areas that may not understand English while Radio Phoenix targeted people in cities were decision makers are found.

While media is an effective tool, it has its is hugely politicized and civil society in ECD do not know how to engage them and this can be seen in other countries as well where it is difficult to push other agendas as politics takes centre stage. Where there are bottle necks pertaining to media, other communication tools can come to play as well.

Once done, there was an overwhelming response particularly with Radio One were out of 21 programs, over 100 calls were recorded for the 40 minutes program. Increase in coverage in print and electronic media has resulted in increased awareness; relationships created between ECD actors and media


  1. Digital Media

The use of digital media is quite effective as it has broken physical barriers that affected analogue media. With just a click of a button your news can reach a very wide audience within such a short time. The best part of it is that a user can share content as well to ensure content gets to a wider audience.

  1. Musicians

 Everybody loves music and some people love it even more when a message is passed using music and in their language as well. Since 2012, the media, civil society (ZANEC), musicians were mobilized to conduct sensitization at (district levels) and advocacy at (national) levels. The musicians were first trained on matters concerning early childhood development which helped them to compose relevant songs to use in the awareness campaigns all over the country.

  1. Courtesy Calls

Courtesy calls made to government officials, traditional leaders, local government officials and district education senior most staff before public shows also helped in mobilization and sending the message to other quarters. These people command a big following and interact with the local people on a daily basis which made them very effective as far as communication was concerned.  Journalists covered the shows; CSOs spoke to government, traditional leaders, general public and on local radio/television (programs); musicians entertained and spread messages during public rallies.

  1. Commitment Cards

Commitment cards shared with all target groups, including policymakers, for their pledge to support ECDE. According to Kabwe, this particular tool was very helpful and effective because over 1,000 signed the commitment cards handed to the Ministry of General Education and the people are on course to carry out their mandate.

The Results of the above communication tools

Coordinated civil society to ensure continuously pressuring government through media (enhanced relationships between media and CSOs)

  • Campaigns contributed to the increase in demand, access and budgetary allocations to ECE; though there is a slump from last year after relaxing
  • The media has been able to influence people’s attitudes and actions
  • The media has reached the most vulnerable sectors of society with ECE messages through local languages
  • Embracing media will also expose rural children to technology that will help them connect to the global village – enhanced participation and accountability
  • Further engagements with the Ministry of General Education for the production of Interactive Radio Instructions/IVI
  • Sustained reminders/interactions with government to fulfill promises (accountability)
  • Mass movements can move politicians to fulfill their promises
  • Use of local languages on through radio and public forums create a mass of supporters that  demand for services and move policymakers to act on their promises
  • Two tier approach – messages/channels for duty bearers (advocacy); messages/channels for rights holders (awareness)
  • Civil society dealing in important should compete for space in media
  •   Creating relationships with the media enhances demand
  • Advocacy without the media is like running a country without the media
  • Galvanising media, civil society, government, musicians to engage  the public to ensure that they understood the messages from different perspectives
  • This was done after trainings for the partners involved
  • Evidence, non-provocative approaches can make technocrats work with CSOs to place demand on politicians
  • Use of correct messages for particular audiences


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