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To support early childhood development in Rwanda, the IKEA Foundation has awarded UNICEF a new grant worth over €3.5 million. This grant will allow UNICEF to continue its work with the Government of Rwanda and civil society organisations to transform the way families and communities nurture their children.

Early Childhood Development embodies early childhood education as well as food security for infants

The Government of Rwanda has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring universal primary education. Despite progress in primary education, access to pre-primary school and early childhood development (ECD) services is still low.

According to the Rwanda Demographic and Health Survey 2014-2015, only 13 per cent of children between 3-6 years attend an organised early childhood education programme.

The Government of Rwanda has recognised that the first several years of a child’s life are critical to ensuring their holistic development. This is evident from the revision of the National ECD Policy endorsed by the Cabinet, fostering a coordinated and integrated approach.

Early childhood development has been prioritised in development plans like the National Strategy for Transformation, and UNICEF Rwanda continues to be the main partner for developing and implementing ECD programmes. At the global level, an ECD target was added to the Sustainable Development Goals in 2016. This is an important milestone, as it is the first explicit inclusion of ECD in global development goals.

“The Government of Rwanda has put words into action through investment in concrete ECD programmes, such as centre- and home-based child care, home visit, and early literacy,” said Ted Maly, UNICEF Representative.

“Evidence shows that 80% of a child’s brain develops between 0 to 3 years of age. Children need adequate care and stimulation in the early years so they don’t lose their development potential later in life.”

This grant from the IKEA Foundation will allow significant expansion of early childhood initiatives in Rwanda. In addition to expanding access to pre-primary education, programmes will include parenting sessions for caregivers, and improved nutrition and child protection services, allowing over 40,000 Rwandan children to have happier, healthier childhoods.

“The IKEA Foundation believes all children have the right to a healthy start in life and a quality education, which starts with developing well in their early years. That’s why we are supporting this project with a grant of over €3.5 million,” said Vivek Singh, Programme Manager for the IKEA Foundation.

Through the support of this generous new grant, UNICEF will to continue to support the Government of Rwanda to overcome barriers to early childhood education for families and communities.