The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), says Early Childhood Development (ECD) is key to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Mrs Swadchet Sankey , Education Specialist, UNICEF disclosed this at a media dialogue on ECD organised by UNICEF in collaboration with the Child Rights Information Bureau of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture on Wednesday in Kano.
Sankey said, “SDGs present an opportunity to connect ECD with efforts to create equity, productivity, prosperity and sustainable growth for a more peaceful future. “Embedded in the SDGs is hunger, health, education and justice targeting on malnutrition, child mortality, early learning and violence target that outline an agenda for ECD”. Presenting a paper tagged “Perspectives of ECD she identified the period as ranging from conception to pre-primary school age. Sankey described the period as critical and single window opportunity to shape the development of a child’s brain, adding that at every stage, the child was expected to acquire certain developmental skills. She explained that during this period the brain formed at an unrepeated speed, giving shape and depth to children’s cognitive, emotional and social development which influences their capacity to learn, solve problems and to relate with others. This according to her will in a long way have significant impact on their adult lives, affecting their ability to earn a living and contribute to their societies and their future happiness. The specialist, who identified SDGs 3 and 4 which deals with good health and education as targeting ECD, said that it also cut across the 17 goals. She noted that through quality ECD, all children irrespective of background would have access to quality care, education, nutrition, protection among others. She also expressed optimism that through improved investment, SDGs would be realised. Sankey further noted that ECD would aid in driving transformation agenda describing it as a cost effective strategies for poverty eradication. According to her, there was the need to prioritise target areas adding that governments, International organisations, scientists, researchers and partners must collaborate to ensure children have opportunity to develop to their full potentials. He noted that through such efforts the nation would benefit with healthier population, skilled work-forces, economic growth and greater prosperity. “ECD is the foundation of achieving SDGs. If we do not increase investment on ECD in early years we will have issues in achieving SDGs because all the 17 goals are tied to it because the child is at the centre of it all. “You want to eradicate poverty, gender inequality, you need to invest in the children; you want to improve the economy among others you need to invest in children,” she noted. Sankey, who described early childhood as a critical opportunity to shape a child’s development emphasised that nurturing children, effective stimulation among others would help them to learn, laugh, feel joy and become more creative and imaginative. She emphasised that `these relatively simple’ actions have a ripple impact on the child’s long-term development, education and future successes. Sankey urged governments and policy makers to assist parents and caregivers build enriching environment where they could pay loving attention to their babies and young children. According to her, any environment that is not sensitive to nutrition, health and security of children is not a complete environment for ECD. Sankey said the media dialogue was to expose journalists on the importance of early childhood years and the need for government to invest more on early learning, nutrition, health among others.