Early Childhood Development is at risk in contexts of forced displacement, while the COVID-19 crisis and social distancing measures pose additional barriers to refugees and vulnerable children. The period from birth to eight years old, is a time of remarkable growth with brain development at its peak, when children are highly influenced by the environment and the people that surround them. This process is particularly at risk for disadvantaged children and Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) plays an important role in compensating for disadvantages in the family and combating educational inequalities In the Eastern Mediterranean, most Syrian refugee children between 0 and 5 years old have no access to early childhood development services and are the most at risk of missing out on a pre-primary education, due to factors such as poverty, transportation issues and language barrier. What is more, most schools and educational centres closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving the entire responsibility for early childhood education and care to families in already precarious circumstances. While the long-term impacts of COVID-19 on education and children’s development is yet to be established, it is evident that ECCE needs to be prioritized and given proper attention in the COVID-19 recovery planning.
Besides supporting children’s brain development and preparing them for school, quality ECCE systems can help improve social cohesion and create jobs for childcare professionals. As central governments take care mostly of formal education starting from first grade, ECCE facilities (e.g. nurseries, pre-schools, etc.) are often the result of partnerships with the private sector and NGOs and can also support the development of the local economy by creating jobs for childcare professionals. When given incentives to vulnerable and poor families, the inclusion of children in formal or non-formal ECCE systems reduces women’s childcare responsibilities, allowing them to increased access the labor market. ECCE can also significantly improve the life course of disadvantaged children, included those affected by conflict and displacement by reducing learning difficulties, fostering social inclusion and reduce psycho-social damage caused by a childhood trauma.
The inclusion of refugee and vulnerable children in formal and non-formal ECCE systems would benefit from support by central and local governments alike, as well as collaborations with NGOs and the private sector. However, local authorities face main challenges in implementing and supporting inclusive ECCE systems, one being that early childhood education is not included in their main mandates and they often lack the resources and technical skills to deal with improving ECCE systems. In addition, they are already strained in their daily tasks as local public service providers. The COVID-19 pandemic has further accentuated the pressure on local authorities.
To support local authorities face challenges arising from hosting refugees, since 2016 the Center for Mediterranean Integration (CMI) manages the Mediterranean Host Municipalities Learning Network (HMLN). The HMLN provides a platform for peer-to-peer learning, training and collaboration for local governments hosting refugees in the Middle East and Turkey and contributes to improving capacities of local authority representatives for ensuring the common welfare of host communities and refugees through regular workshops, trainings, online discussions, and periodic collection of experiences implemented in local governments hosting refugees.
ECCE is a new focus theme in HMLN activities, following requests from CMI’s partners and the acknowledgment of the importance of ECCE especially in forced displacement settings. This webinar will be the first CMI-World Bank event on the theme in this context.
This webinar will address the main needs and challenges for ECCE in forced displacement contexts and solutions for central and local authorities in MENA to provide quality ECCE to local and forcibly displaced children. It will initiate a conversation among development partners and colleagues, civil society, private sector actors, and local governments working on this topic.
Objectives of this webinar are:
The webinar will target representatives of local authorities, members of the HMLN, CMI partner organizations, representatives of local organizations an INGOs working on the theme of ECCE. It will consist of selected presentations on the theme followed by Q&A, allowing participants to interact by connecting directly from their computer or smartphone with a stable internet connection.
If you wish to participate to this webinar, register here to receive connection details.
Arabic-English-Turkish simultaneous interpretation will be provided.