“It was discovered that children living in households that either have children’s books or picture books for three plus years were two percent..."
Only two percent of children under the age of five live in households with books for children, a survey by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) has revealed.
The survey conducted on early child development which is the first of its kind, is contained in the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey.
Presenting findings on child health and development to various stakeholders in Kampala on Wednesday, Johnstone Galande, a statistician at UBOS said majority of children aged between three and five years were living in households that do not promote learning and school readiness.
"It was discovered that children living in households that either have children's books or picture books for three plus years were two percent and only one percent for those aged 10 and above," Galande said.
Relatedly, 71% of children were largely seen to be using both house objects like bowls, pots and knives and outside objects like sticks, rocks, animal shells and leaves as play tools compared to manufactured and homemade toys like dolls, balls and cars.
Robert Byabasheija, a child health expert who attended the dissemination workshop said the inadequacy of both children's books and play toys in home settings negatively impacts on children's development.
"Whereas the reading culture in our settings is generally low, these findings are unacceptably low. Without books, children will not be stimulated and will have low literacy and numeracy levels," he said, adding that books play a great part in the current world of work where both mothers and fathers are not present at home.
Divya Lata, an ECD specialist with UNICEF said the success of a child in primary school depends on his or her early childhood background. "We have high levels of drop out cases plus the learning achievements in primary is quite low. Equally 60% of our young adolescents who are aged 15 and should be in secondary school are actually still in primary schools and part of their challenge is a weak foundation to learning."
Lata added that from global evidence, if a child does not have good support in the early years then the ability of them succeeding in life in regards to having a good job or keeping one and being able to provide for their family will be compromised.
"The important thing for the ministry of education is to ensure that we are able to provide that early learning support to young children," she stated.
Uganda's pre-primary education also known as nursery school education has mainly been in the hands of the private sector.
However, whereas organised early childhood education programmes are important to facilitate children's cognitive development and prepare them for formal primary education, it has been out of financial reach of most children.
UDHS statistics indicate that only 37% of youngest children aged 36-59 months and are living with their mothers, attend organised early childhood education programmes. Children born to mothers with more than a secondary education, those from households in the highest wealth quintile and those living in urban areas, are more likely to attend early childhood education.
It was also discovered that children from Karamoja (13%) and Teso (17%) regions were less likely to attend early childhood education than those from other regions.
Government in 2016 launched the first ever National Integrated Early Childhood Development Policy (NIECDP) that is intended to direct the nation's journey of responsible parenthood, leadership and delivery of quality services to children.
Under the new policy, Government will ensure that at least one quality ECD centre is in every village across Uganda by 2020.
The New Vision also has an innovation called Newspapers in Education(NiE) that helps improve levels of literacy in schools, prisons, universities and adult literacy programmes.
Other findings on child development indicate that 55% of children under two years received all basic vaccinations. About 28% of children under five where left in the care of another child under the age of 10 for more than an hour.
The common reasons for this act, according to Galande was that the adults taking care of the children had to leave the house to go shopping or wash clothes.
When it came to child discipline, 85% of children aged 1 to 14 years experienced any violent or discipline method. These included spanking, slapping, shaking, being shouted at or being called dumb or lazy.
But according to Lata, whereas disciplining is part of child upbringing, parents should instead help children realise their mistakes through carrying out rational discussions with them.