The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is in the process of developing the National Early Learning Policy (NELP). The policy focusses on the provision of care and early education opportunities for children eligible for the Infant School Module, namely (ECD A, ECD B, Grades 1 and 2) parents, guardians and families. The development of the NELP addresses the need to align the various circulars and statutory instruments on the provision of Early Childhood Development (ECD) with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the Competency-based Curriculum, the Education Act and the country’s transformation agenda as set out in the national development plans.
The Curriculum Framework 2015-2022 establishes four years of the Infant School Module that comprises of two years of Early Childhood Development (ECD) A and B for children 4 and 5 years old and two years of grades 1 and grade 2 for children 6 and 7 years old. The purpose of the Infant School Module (early years’ education) is to lay a strong base that ensures optimal acquisition of foundational skills for subsequent educational levels and lifelong learning.
It is important to note that the Government of Zimbabwe is signatory to several global commitments on education including United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Agenda 2030 and Africa’s agenda 2063. Of special mention is the SDG 4, target 4.2 that calls on state governments to ensure that by 2030, all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education. Education 2030 Agenda appeals for increased access to quality, inclusive and equitable early childhood education and increased investment in this subsector respectively. It reiterates the need for countries to ensure an enabling environment by establishing legal and policy frameworks that promote accountability, transparency, participatory governance and coordinated partnerships; provision of at least one year of free and compulsory quality pre-primary education; ensuring that teachers and educators are empowered, adequately recruited, motivated and supported. In view of the above,
The Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) under Agenda 2063 launched the Early Childhood Education and Development Cluster in September 2018 and identified Early Childhood Education Development as the pillar for future learning that is critical for Africa to realize sustained quality education and training.
Zimbabwe faces some challenges in the provision for early learning and these include low access of eligible children (32%); underage and overage enrolments; inequitable provision with children from rural and vulnerable households most affected; inadequate participation of children with disabilities and insufficient quality of services. Other constraints are the affordability and shortage of facilities as barriers to access and equity while quality of the programme is affected by teacher quality, lack of a systematic teacher supervision and support and shortage of teaching and learning materials including inclusive instructional resources.
Specifically, the National Early Learning Policy addresses five key strategic areas for ECD in Zimbabwe, namely the need to improve learning outcomes for the development of national human capital; the aligning of early learning policies with the Constitution and the national development agenda; universal access and equity in early learning provision; improving the quality of education in the country and strengthening partnerships and collaboration.