‘Invest early’ is message from Kenyan companies that support early childhood care

Child At An Early Childhood Development Programme In Kibera Nairobi
A child at an early childhood development programme in Kibera, Nairobi (Theirworld / Adriane Ohanesian)

Child nutrition (Early years), Childcare, Early childhood development, Safe pregnancy and birth, The Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education)

A report by the Global Business Coalition for Education highlights how businesses are realising the benefits of backing young children to their company, their workforce and their brands' relationship with the local communities.

A lot happens by the time a child turns five. Piles of research points to these critical first years of life as setting the tone for health, nutrition, physical development, cognitive development and socio-emotional skills. 

Children need adequate care in their earliest years – including the key areas of health, nutrition, play, learning and protection. If they don’t, it can have serious consequences for their growth, school readiness, success in the classroom and economic prospects later in life. 

Ahead of the G20 summit in July, Theirworld’s #5for5 campaign has been calling on world leaders to increase investment in early childhood development (ECD). 

The private sector can also play an important role in supporting efforts to make sure every child receives quality early care. 

In a new report, the Global Business Coalition for Education (GBC-Education) highlights the ways in which companies in Kenya are supporting ECD and how other companies can follow their lead – locally and globally. 

“Approximately 38% of three and four-year-olds in Kenya are not reaching their cognitive and socio-emotional milestones,” according to Investing Smart, Investing Early: A Business Guide to Early Childhood Development in Kenya. 

Businesses in the East African nation are recognising that a healthy and skilled future workforce is essential to a healthy future business environment. 

More and more business leaders are also realising that supporting early years care and family-friendly internal corporate policies has immediate benefits to their company, their employees and their brands’ relationship with the local communities in which they operate. 

By implementing policies that allow parents the flexibility and support to care for their children, businesses retain and attract the best employees as well as keep them productive, loyal and engaged in their work. 

Children Eat Lunch At Ecd Programme In Kibera Kenya

Children eat their lunch at an early childhood development programme in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya (Theirworld / Adriane Ohanesian)

The report cites research that finds “employees most committed to their organisations put in 57% more effort on the job – and are 87% less likely to resign – than employees who consider themselves disengaged”.

Ambassador Dennis Awori, Trustee of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance Foundation, said: “Early childhood policies bring companies a significant return on investment and, in the long run, support the development of a healthy future workforce due to the improved health and development of the children. 

“But companies don’t need to wait decades to see the results of these policies. Employers also benefit from decreased employee turnover and absenteeism that results from better supporting working mothers, along with improved employee loyalty and enhanced company image.” 

Through investing in the provision of ECD services in the local community, businesses position themselves as socially responsible, improve brand visibility and enhance customer loyalty within their communities. 

In the long term, ensuring the upcoming generation is supported in these early years sets the stage for success in school and later in the workforce.

The report said: “The earlier the investment in a child’s human capital, the greater the return on that investment. In contrast, poor development costs economies big, reducing GDP, depressing adult wages and depriving countries of human capital.”

These lessons learned in Kenya can be applied to businesses globally who want to make a smart investment in ECD. 

According to GBC-Education, any business can get involved in supporting quality early care, and many already do so through internal policies – even if they don’t realise it.

Internally, companies can:

  • Provide flexible working hours and generous leave policies that allow parents to balance the needs and childcare schedules of their young children
  • Offer health benefits to employees and support affordable childcare options
  • Provide spaces for working mothers to breastfeed or express milk
  • Educate employees on ECD through internal communications campaigns

Externally, companies can:

  • Invest in childcare and preschool facilities in local communities
  • Provide expertise to improve early years services
  • Invest in research and development
  • Use their voice and influence to champion ECD

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