Uganda: Makerere to Back Early Childhood Educators

Monday, 4 January 2016
John Musinguzi

Makerere University is set to assist all training institutions with early childhood development (ECD) component, popularly known as nursery education.

This follows a memorandum of understanding between Makerere, the education ministry and ECD training institutions. This was disclosed at a national dialogue on early childhood care education at Makerere's main hall on December 18.

Hosted by the university's college of Education and External Studies (Cees), the dialogue that involved universities, teacher training colleges, psychologists, caregivers, counselors and medical personnel, discussed early childhood care and development and education policies, implementation challenges, and necessary pedagogical interventions.

These included assembling a database on ECD centres in the country, and the role universities can play in supporting them. The dialogue agreed that it was difficult for an A-level graduate to train for a degree in ECD in Uganda, as the tradition is that one must first get a certificate in ECD, then a diploma before enrolling for a degree.

This has created an arbitrary shortage of young ECD teachers and trained practitioners. Dr Anthony Mugagga, the Cees deputy principal, said Makerere's school of education's Early Childhood Centre, which had been idle, would now do its earlier intended job of providing auxiliary services to ECD training institutions.

He commended Kyambogo University for maintaining ECD programmes, while Makarere ignored the field that is generally not associated with intellectuals but with failures.

Dr Godfrey Ejuu, the head of ECD at Kyambogo University, told The Observer that the department was started there (by then Itek) in 1982 as a diploma programme by the National Institute of Education. In 1987, a degree programme in Early Childhood Education (ECE) was introduced there, after it had been transferred from Makerere University.

Then in 1995, the Child Study Centre (Nursery School) was set up at Kyambogo to provide hands-on training. In 1998, the Certificate in Nursery Teaching (CNT) was introduced to cater for the untrained teachers that were already working in various nursery schools.

Ejuu said because of increased demand for ECD services in the country, other programmes had been developed to help prepare teachers and ECD caregivers at different levels.

Dr Relindis Yovsi, the Unicef Uganda ECD consultant, stressed that early childhood care and development cover the first eight years of the child plus the nine months of conception. She advised that the misconception that ECD refers to pre-school ages of three to five is dangerous and should be dropped.

She said caregivers and educators must serve the child right from conception, such as freeing pregnant women from stressful situations and poor nutrition, and talking to or playing with the child still in the womb.

She said the first three years of primary education also fall under ECD. Ministry officials agreed with this and said that's why they introduced the thematic curriculum of instruction in the child's mother tongue because it lays a strong foundation.

"Parents and other caregivers play a critical role in determining the child's chances for survival, growth and development. Rapid brain development takes place in the first eight years than at any future age. Hence issues of hygiene and sanitation, protection, play-based learning are crucial. Day care, preschool, lower primary, orphanages, home visits, remand homes, etc, all contribute to ECD," Yovsi said.