Janet Museveni roots for early childhood centres for rural communities

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Janet Museveni roots for early childhood centres for rural communities
Children playing at a Child Friendly Space in Nakapiriprit district.

NATIONAL PLAY DAY | Education and Sports minister Janet Museveni has ramped up calls for the setting up of early childhood centres at the grassroots as a basic right in the country.

Mrs Museveni, who on Tuesday joined thousands of learners of all age groups and levels, including pre-primary children, at the National Play Day at Kololo Independence, said the centres would not only foster education but given them ample and regulated playtime.

"All children should have early childhood centres in our rural areas and we hope it will happen when the time is right," Mrs Museveni, also the First Lady, said.

The National Play Day was celebrated in the country for the first time and the call for early childhood centre would not have come at a better time.

In its manifest for early childhood education, the UN children's education fund, UNICEF, says science shows that life is a story for which the beginning sets the tone.

"That makes the early years of childhood a time of great opportunity, but also great risk," the agency says.

Children’s brains are built, moment by moment, as they interact with their environments.

Scientists say in the first few years of life, more than one million neural connections are formed each second – a pace never repeated again.

The quality of a child’s early experiences makes a critical difference as their brains develop, providing either strong or weak foundations for learning, health and behaviour throughout life.

Early childhood offers a critical window of opportunity to shape the trajectory of a child’s holistic development and build a foundation for their future.

"For children to achieve their full potential, as is their human right, they need health care and nutrition, protection from harm and a sense of security, opportunities for early learning, and responsive caregiving – like talking, singing and playing – with parents and caregivers who love them," UNICEF says.

"All of this is needed to nourish developing brains and fuel growing bodies."

At Kololo, Mrs Museveni pledged the Education ministry's support in training early childhood centre management committees, reiterating the importance of children engaging in other activities especially physical away from classrooms.

The minister encouraged mothers to spearhead these activities and be flexible to let the children play.

She challenged members of Mothers Union, mothers from the Catholic and Muslim secretariats who are direct representatives of many mothers, to take the lead in the vision for early childhood education centres.

UNICEF pledged to support the endeavours to set up recreation grounds to help the children play.

Dr Munir Safieldin, from the agency's country representative, said they were committed to building 72 new playgrounds to cater for early childhood development.

The agency says when children who miss out on opportunities to learn and are deprived of the stimulation that their developing brains need to thrive.

The National Play Day was celebrated under the theme, "Play-based learning from early years to support lifelong learning and development".

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