Early Childhood Care and Development

The period of early childhood is between 0 to 6 years of age and is the time of greatest growth and development when the brain develops most rapidly; a period when walking, talking, self-esteem, vision of the world and moral foundations are developed. Care, as an element of Integrated Early Childhood Care and Development (IECCD), refers to a set of practices and actions that are provided by caregivers (families, communities, and services institutions) in order to ensure the child’s survival, growth and development. It is the sum of the requisite enabling environment that promotes intellectual, spiritual, and psychosocial development of the child. It incorporates the development of life skills in children, and involves care at home and outside home where different activities and practices are undertaken according to the different ages of children.  It also includes the early detection of disabilities that may necessitate early intervention.  

The rationale for including IECCD as an integral part of the pre-schooling process is clearly evident. The early years of life are critical to the development of intelligence, personality and social behaviour. Research on brain development attests to the fact that if key mental, physical and social capabilities are not well developed from the start, and especially if neurological damage occurs, the learning potential is adversely affected. The child’s growth and development is influenced by a combination of interrelated factors that constitute the overall environment and the basic needs of the child have to be met by ensuring appropriate nutrition, good health, and a loving and secure learning atmosphere. This calls for integrated comprehensive actions and interactions between the family, the schools, health centres, and the community. The Government of Lesotho recognizes the importance of the early years of life as a foundation for human development and lifelong learning. The 1991/92-1995/96 Education Sector Development Plan stipulated that all children from 2 to 6 years of age should have access to integrated early childhood education by the year 2000, a target that was not reached. The Government of Lesotho remains committed to supporting IECCD providers, especially for the pre-school years from 2 to 6 years. 

The role of IECCD Unit at the MOET headquarters is basically facilitative and, thus, is not involved in direct delivery of field services. It is responsible for the following functions.  

  • planning of IECCD programme activities countrywide; 
  • policy formulation and implementation; 
  • establishment and regulation of IECCD centres; 
  • training of personnel involved in IECCD provision, including local committee 
  • members; 
  • monitoring, supervision and evaluation of IECCD activities; 
  • development of curricula; 
  • establishment of appropriate structures for implementation of the IECCD programme; 
  • feasibility and needs assessment studies; and 
  • social mobilisation, advocacy and infrastructure dissemination. 

From the perspective of the MOET, the IECCD dividends include the following: 

  1. Impact on school achievement: Children that are exposed to an effective IECCD are better equipped for the demands of the school system, including proven record of improved academic achievement. Thus, IECCD programmes enhance children’s readiness for schooling. 
  2. Reduction of educational wastage: IECCD activities reduce the number of repeat cases and failure rates, thus, allowing the system to optimally apply its limited resources to more school children. 
  3. IECCD has strong gender implications as it enables women to work and participate in development activities while the children are being cared for. Moreover, to the extent that gender disparities and marginalization of girls start during early years, IECCD programmes can reduce gender inequalities by providing a fair and equitable start to both girls and boys.