Action needed to prevent childcare crisis affecting children’s education prospects

Early childhood development

Kenyan children at an early childhood development programme in Kibera, Nairobi in March Picture: Adriane Ohanesian


Governments and donors must do more to tackle a childcare crisis that threatens the development and education of millions of children around the world.

Affordable and quality childcare is difficult to find in the poorest and most underserved communities, according to a briefing today by the children’s charity Theirworld.

That lack of help leads to significant effects on children, parents, communities and even country economies, says the report. It can also seriously impact the educational propects of children.

Released on the annual Global Day of Parents, Early Childhood Development and the Childcare Crisis examines the links between childcare and early childhood development.

It says: “High-quality childcare supports healthy early childhood development and can improve school readiness and learning outcomes, while simultaneously freeing adults to work and older children to attend school.”

The brief adds: “Children who receive quality cognitive stimulation at a very young age are likely to do better in school and have greater opportunities for success.”

Theirworld – the charity behind A World at School – says government, donors and advocates must do more to support access to high-quality childcare.

The burden of childcare in developing countries falls mainly on women – even though many are also working. Half of the world’s women age 15 and over – and 72% of women in low-income countries – are currently in the labour force,

Many families cope by relying on grandparents (up to 75% of African households) or siblings to do the childcare. Other methods are leaving children unsupervised ot turning to domestic workers or organised childcare.

The briefing says: “The presence of grandparents can improve school outcomes for children, especially girls, as they take over domestic and childcare responsibilities that would otherwise keep children out of school.” However, many grandparents cannot afford school fees and child care, which pushes them further into poverty.

In parts of Ethiopia, more than half of rural girls aged five to eight provide unpaid childcare every day.

The report, which makes five key recommendations, says: “This situation also limits opportunities for the older children to go to school and diminishes their future opportunities, trapping families in poverty.”

In a blog for Theirworld’s website, Research Consultant Molly Curtiss writes: “Sometimes older siblings are pulled out of school to care for younger brothers or sisters, cutting their education and their future prospects short..

“High-quality childcare supports healthy physical, mental, and emotional development in the first years of life and helps prepare young children for success in school – but low-quality care can do serious, long-lasting harm to a child’s growth and development.”

Read the full Theirworld report here

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