African youth rise up to demand early years spending target is met

African Union Special Rapporteurs Anne Musiwa and Poloko Nuggert Ntshwarang with Theirworld consultant Gilbert Ngaira

Young campaigners across Africa have risen up to demand urgent action on the early years crisis.

More than 1,500 Theirworld Global Youth Ambassadors mobilised to mark Day of the African Child by urging leaders to invest 10% of education spending on the continent’s 200 million under-fives.

Their passionate call on the importance of preschool education was heard loud and clear. As part of the Act For Early Years campaign launched by Theirworld, Our youth ambassadors sent more than 75 letters to government ministers of countries including Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia.

Other young activists spread the message through social media posts and poster campaigns, while Nigerian newspapers featured Global Youth Ambasadors’ calls to stop Africa’s youngest children falling behind.

Two high-ranking officials from the African Union of 55 countries also pushed for the 10% target to be met at a special Day of the African Child event at Kiryandongo refugee camp in Uganda. In TV interviews, they urged African countries to increase investment in pre-primary education.

Poloko Nuggert Ntshwarang, African Union Special Rapporteur for Education, said: “We want to see increased financing in education, with 10% of all education spending by states going to early childhood education and development.”

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Children worldwide do not have access to childcare

She and Anne Musiwa, African Union Special Rapporteur for Parentless Children, met Ugandan ministers to push the 10% spending target. Musiwa said: “The theme of this Day of the African Child is education for all children – and the time is now.”

Preschool is crucial to every child’s development. Children who miss out on early years learning fall behind others even before they start primary school. But latest figures show that only 2.3% of education budgets in sub-Saharan Africa is committed to pre-primary.

Theirworld’s Global Youth Ambassadors in Africa want countries to change that by committing to invest at least 10% of education budgets to preschool education by 2030 – a target agreed by more than 140 nations in 2022.

Yusuf Muhammed Saidu, a Global Youth Ambassador from Nigeria, said: “I have witnessed first-hand the transformative impact of investing in early childhood education and the positive outcomes it can bring for children’s future success and well-being.

“I urge the Nigeria government and all Africa leaders to prioritise early childhood education and commit to increasing funding for preschool programs to ensure that every child has access to quality education from the earliest years.”

The young campaigners’ letter to African government ministers said too many children across the continent are being denied their basic right to preschool education, which widens the inequality gap between rich and the poor.

I am advocating for Africa's youngest children because quality early education laid the groundwork for my academic and career achievements.

Halimat Omowumi Olaniyan, Global Youth Ambassador from Nigeria



It read: “The foundations of a thriving, prosperous education begin in the early years. Children who have access to high-quality preschool education start primary school with strong foundational skills in literacy and math and have higher earning potential as they grow up.

“The evidence is clear. Investing in early years is more than a moral obligation; it’s an economic booster, an equaliser and a foundation for regional stability. It’s about laying the groundwork for a fair, prosperous and sustainable future.”

South Africa’s Department of Basic Education responded to the letter by saying it is “committed to ensuring that we achieve universal access to quality early childhood development programmes by 2030”. Director-General H.M. Mweli added that there was a strategy to guide how the budget allocation to the early years can be increased annually to achieve that goal.

Justin van Fleet, President of Theirworld, said: “I support the call to action by African youth to prioritise younger learners with high quality preschool education. The current lack of investment is leaving millions of children behind from the start, denied the chance to fulfil their potential.”