The center is a collaborative effort that will provide room and learning facilities for children of fishing communities around Gaba.
It was all joy at Gaba fish market, along the shores of Lake Victoria as a new Early Childhood Development center (ECD) got unveiled there.
Local fishermen and women, traders and dealers all jubilated. At last, their infants would stop roaming the market and start attending school.
Gaba market, is located next to one of the busiest landing sites in Uganda. It is a bee hive of fishing activity, every day and every night. Fishmongers, traders and food vendors spend days conducting business.
Many of them are too poor to employ nannies to look after their children back home. As a result, parent carry their children to the market and often leave them to roam about. This exposes them to lots of danger.
As an intervention, Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited and GEMS Cambridge International School have pooled resources to start an Early Childhood Development centre near the market.
According to Patrick Mweheire the Stanbic Bank Uganda Chief Executive Officer, the center is a collaborative effort that will provide room and learning facilities for children of fishing communities around Gaba.
It will benefit children aged below 8 years. Services at the center will be free. Over Sh40m was spent on establishing the programme.
Mweheire said this initiative followed a study undertaken by the bank on the needs of the Gaba fishing communities. We found that many children there are unable to realize their full potential because of a good start in life. For instance we discovered that most of the children from this area come from broken homes, raised by single mothers- usually market vendors with very low household incomes to adequately provide proper childcare to their children,” he said. As a result, many abandon their children or simply let them wonder around the market.
The centre, Mweheire said will provide physical, cognitive, and emotional skills development to improve their learning capacity and prepare them for the future.
Defining Early Childhood Development
This is a time of critical change and development where a child attains the physical and mental skills needed for the rest of their life. Early childhood spans from birth to age 8 years. According to the World Bank, ECD focuses on identifiable sequence of the following aspects of growth and change:
ECD very important
According to UNICEF Uganda’s Agnes Ijuka Barongo, Early Childhood Development is critical to childhood development. Despite that, ECD is not yet well developed in this country. “Many Ugandan children still lack access, she said.
Recent Ministry of Education and Sports figures show that only 6.2% of children aged 3-5 years old nationwide access ECD.
“Yet children who are well nurtured and cared for in the earliest years are more likely to survive, and to develop thinking, language and social skills. They’re also more likely to enrol in primary school at the right age, Barongo said.
Steps towards improvement
Working with different stakeholders, the government of Uganda has, in collaboration with UNICEF Uganda, and other partners recently made some strides in the development of an Early Childhood Development policy.
According to UNICEF Uganda, the policy and operational guidelines for ECD Centres are available for use in all 112 districts of Uganda. In the UNICEF focus districts about 15.5% of children are enrolled in ECD Centres, up from 2% in 2006 when UNICEF begun supporting Early Childhood Development in these districts.
Despite that, participation in ECD remains low and certain challenges persist, including a lack of trained teachers and insufficient facilities.
Beneficiaries speak out
Rose Nasuna, a 29-year-old mother of three and a trader in Gaba Market says this ECD programme will help her provide a good foundation for the education of her children.
“This programme will occupy my children meaningfully. Many times they end up wondering all-over the landing site. I have nowhere to keep them while at work”, she said.
Like many women who work here, she is a single mother whose attempts to find a minder for her children have not been very successful.
Jimmy Kamya, the vice chairman Gaba landing site said, many parents from this community cannot afford the expensive day care facilities. “That is why this is a good opportunity for our children to get a start in life. I call upon parents to bring their children to the training centre.”