Mr. Sheldon Yett, Country Representative of United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has attributed Liberia’s low level of education to the enrollment of overage students in pre-primary classes.
According to him, there is clear and ample evidence that those are years that determine the rest of the children’s lives, “because those are years that they develop values and behavior that will stay with them throughout their entire lives.”
Mr. Yett said he believes that if children receive the best start in their earliest years of life, they are more likely to develop their capacity to learn to the fullest potential, develop the behavioral attributes necessary for success, complete school, and lead a productive, rewarding life.
He noted that out of 446,000 pre-primary age children, only 105,000 are accessing Early Childhood Development (ECD) services in Liberia’s schools.
“Of this number of children, more than 88 percent are older than the appropriate age for their level, thereby hampering effective instruction and efficient learning,” Mr. Yett disclosed.
He said it is clear the foundation for a sustainable increase in access to quality ECD opportunities is in place, but much more is needed.
“What happens—or doesn’t happen—to children in the first five years of their lives has a profound impact on their immediate well-being and on their longer term future,” Mr. Yett observed.
The UNICEF Country Rep made the disclosure on Wednesday, April 23, when he presented a paper at a one-day National Symposium on Higher Education and ECD.
The day-long symposium was hosted by the Ministry of Education (MOE) on the theme, “Higher Education and Early Childhood Development—the Awakening.” Mr. Yett’s paper was called: “National Week of the Young Child.”
According to him, the first five years in the life of a child is a period of great opportunity, but, “if neglected, it can be a period of vulnerability.”
“It is about education, but is also about nutrition and health, about social environments and parental care, generating the best conditions to ensure balanced physical, and emotional and cognitive development for each child,” he explained.
“As such,” Mr. Yett said, “it is time to use evidence-backed research to put a national program into action. This should be done with a budget sufficient to empower effective trainers and caregivers, who can prepare Liberia’s next generation of informed, engaged, and responsible citizens.”
By his tally, there are nearly 450,000 children of pre-primary age demanding appropriate basic services and effective parenting skills.
Mr. Yett, therefore, called the government’s attention to the need for further investment in improving access to quality early childhood development programs across the country.