Among the six Education For All (EFA) goals is provision of early childhood care and education, especially for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children.
In recent years, the government has placed immense importance on pre-school education as it moves to improve the quality of education. However, it is yet to become a fundamental right. Officials blame parents for abandoning their responsibilities but it takes more than parental guidance to improve learning outcomes for pupils.
We need not only to invest in making pre-schooling affordable but also ensuring that more public pre-schools are well equipped with competent teachers to improve learning outcomes.
The Ministry of Education has to do more to ensure local government officials work closely with parents to increase enrolment in pre-school and minimise chances of children missing out or skipping, only for them to drop out at primary level.
Currently, pre-schools with the required facilities remain for a privileged few who can afford to pay. Many public pre-primary schools not only lack the required facilities but are also overcrowded.
While many ordinary Rwandans would like to send their children to pre-primary schools, not only are they financially constrained but they are also not eager because they feel their children are not learning much.
As such, they feel their children are better off beginning from primary school with a misconception that it will save them money.
Research suggests that pre-primary education is important for the development of children before they enter formal school. It helps in cognitive development of children at the early grades of primary education and it has a strong bearing on attendance and participation of children once they join primary school.
Pre-primary education is considered important for the child as it is the first step on the journey of knowledge as well as a healthy and purposeful life. Pre-primary education not only helps children become more independent and confident, but also promote the all-round development of the children.
Children who have been to pre-primary schools tend to learn more rapidly through an organised curriculum, learning aids and by interacting with other children. Pre-primary schools also help older children, particularly girls, to attend their schools making them free from responsibility of sibling care.
Thus, it can be said that pre-primary education is necessary for all children irrespective of their socio-economic background. With increasing numbers of nuclear families and a lack of family support, pre-primary school education is gaining importance.
Availability of quality pre-primary education will promote inclusive education and meaningful access to education by increasing enrolment and reducing the vulnerability of children to failure and dropping out at later stages of education.