July 09, 2021

Global Youth Ambassadors urge Kenya’s President to invest in early childhood education

Kenyan children at a pre-primary class

Photo credit: Theirworld / Faith Ocharo

African campaigners say prioritising pre-school funding is “smart and crucial” for every country. 

More than 100 Theirworld Global Youth Ambassadors have urged Kenya's President to give children the best start in life by investing in early childhood education (ECE).

In an open letter to Uhuru Kenyatta, the youth campaigners from across Africa say funding pre-school education is "one of the smartest, most crucial investments our countries must make". They ask him to increase the ECE share of Kenya’s education budget from 1.8% to 10%.

The GYAs say they have been encouraged by President Kenyatta's leadership on education financing and listening to the voices of young people. Kenya will be a co-host, along with the United Kingdom, of the Global Partnership for Education's replenishment summit on July 28 and 29.

The GYAs write: "We hope that you will take the opportunity of the Global Partnership for Education summit as a moment to show your commitment to early childhood education and encourage all countries over the next few years to steadily increase investment in pre-primary to 10% of their education budgets."

We believe a day will come that every child will have equal access to quality education, starting from pre-primary.

Open letter from Global Youth Ambassadors to President Kenyatta

Theirworld has been campaigning for countries and donors to invest at least 10% of their education budgets on pre-primary school years. We are working hard - supported by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation - in Kenya to change opinions and bring about lasting change. 

Early childhood education is crucial because 90% of a child’s brain has developed by the age of five. But pre-school enrolment in low-income countries is just 23% and funding is often woefully inadequate. 

Burundi and Malawi dedicate none of their education budgets specifically to pre-primary education. Zimbabwe and Ethiopia invest 1.8% and 1.9% respectively.

The GYAs add: "We know that education has the power to transform lives and we need to guarantee that transformation for every child, starting from pre-primary."

The letter comes ahead of a report which Theirworld will launch soon about levels of investment in early years education. 

The Theirworld Global Youth Ambassador Programme is a network of nearly 1,000 young people from more than 70 countries across the globe working together to end the global education crisis. 

The letter in full

His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta,

We are writing to you as young people across Africa, passionate about every child’s access to early childhood education, who are encouraged by the leadership you are showing ahead of the Global Partnership for Education Replenishment Summit taking place 28th-29th July 2021.

The steps you have taken in pushing for education financing have been bold and timely and Africa thanks you for that. Additionally, we are motivated by you and your government’s commitment to young people’s representation and participation which has encouraged us, as young people, to unite our voices across the region for the protection and empowerment of the youngest minds in our nations.

We know that education has the power to transform lives, and we need to guarantee that transformation for every child, starting from pre-primary. We are calling on you to put pre-primary learning at the heart of your vision for education, by pledging to commit 10% of Kenya’s education budget to early childhood education (ECE).

90% of our brain develops in our first five years, making the early years some of the most important of our lives. This is why early childhood education must be a fundamental right for every child, yet all too often, it is the poorest children who miss out. In countries like Chad or Somalia, nearly all children are denied the right to pre-primary. Even in wealthier countries like Nigeria, only a tenth of the poorest children attend kindergarten.

Yet investing in the early years is one of the smartest, most crucial investments our countries must make, for the future generations in Africa. The evidence is clear: investment in the early years represents excellent value for money.

Research shows that for every dollar invested in ECE, governments can expect a return on investment of $17. Prioritising early childhood education will contribute to the building of peace, the eradication of poverty, and a future where every child has the best start in life, a safe space to learn, and the skills they need to build a future.

Despite this, according to data compiled by UNICEF, Kenya currently only invests 1.8% of its education budget on the early years. Zimbabwe and Ethiopia invest a little more at 1.9% and 2% respectively, while Burundi and Malawi dedicate zero of their education budgets specifically to pre-primary.

Today, pre-school enrolment in low-income countries is just 23%. Without urgent action, current trajectories will still see 68% of children denied the opportunity to attend and reach their potential because of factors they cannot control. Not paying attention to this issue would mean that more children will be out of school at the end of this decade than we had at the beginning. In order to make the African Union’s vision for 2063 a reality, we need to begin putting measures in place now to ensure the leaders of that vision receive a pre-primary education.

We highly value your role in ensuring children have better environments for learning, playing, and protection, and as a leader, you are in a position to pave the way and influence broader change. We hope that you will take the opportunity of the Global Partnership for Education Summit as a moment to show your commitment to early childhood education and encourage all countries over the next few years to steadily increase investment in pre-primary to 10% of their education budgets.

We believe a day will come that every child will have equal access to quality education, starting from pre-primary. This is the dream of the world we, united young people from across Africa, want to see.

Theirworld Global Youth Ambassadors

We are a children's charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation.

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