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The Kingdom of Eswatini Seeks to Establish a National ECCE System with Support from IBE-UNESCO

Between 1 July and 4 July, the IBE-UNESCO and the Kingdom of Eswatini held intense discussions on how to set the Kingdom towards the establishment of a holistic and resilient national Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) system. Discussions were held at all levels that are critical for ensuring the success of such a system.

Institutionally, discussions were anchored in the office of the Right Honorable Deputy Prime Minister (DPM); which office is responsible for all children’s affairs in the Kingdom. Arrangements couldn’t have been better. At each level of the dialogue, the IBE-UNESCO team shared its ECCE system prototype as well as best practice ECCE systems across the world.

From the political level, the IBE-UNESCO team met His Excellency, the Prime Minister (PM) of the Kingdom of Eswatini, the DPM, and all Cabinet Ministers under the chair of the PM. All levels of the political leadership concurred that setting up a national ECCE system was a past-due entry step towards building the country’s future human resources base, and towards long-term human capital accumulation. A holistic and resilient national ECCE system was also recognized as the country’s first step towards breaking intergenerational poverty in the country, as well as a lead step towards equity and inclusion.  The IBE-UNESCO team was assured the political support it may require in the process of supporting the establishment of Eswatini’s national ECCE system. A roadmap towards the establishment of a national system was agreed, starting with the signing of an MoU mid-September 2019.

The IBE-UNESCO team also met with Principal Secretaries (PSs) of all the ten Ministries that directly contribute to the delivery of holistic ECCE services. Dialogue with PSs was followed by joint work sessions with technical teams from the ten Ministries. Details of the technical work program were to follow the signing of the MoU.

A breakfast meeting was held with the private sector to appeal for their contribution to a national ECCE fund. Meetings were also held with international development partners that are already working with Eswatini on ECCE. First, were heads of the UN system to ensure “delivering as one”. In attendance were UNDP, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, and the UNESCO NatCom. Second, was the European Union who seem to be prominent players in matters of child protection.  The IBE-UNESCO initiative was highly welcomed and all parties pledged to collaborate, going forward.

Prior to arrival in the Kingdom, the IBE team had shared a draft MoU with national authorities for review and signing. By the end of the visit, it was still at the legal offices of the country, but, commitment was made by the office of the DPM, that it would be signed by mid-September 2019.

The signing of the MoU will kick-start the first step towards the establishment of the national ECCE system, starting with the establishment of a national institutional and governance framework for the system. This will be followed by the establishment of other core frameworks including: policy, strategy, programs, financing, monitoring and evaluation, and impact assessment.  If all works well, Eswatini will be the second country in the SADC region that will work with the IBE-UNESCO towards attaining a status of a Best Practice Hub on ECCE.