Evidence abounds that children start learning before they are even born and learning continues throughout their lives. It is said that every child learns the most during the formative years; that is the first eight years of life. Hence the need for parents and the society, as a whole, to work hand in hand to ensure that the right environment is created for children, who are the future leaders, to learn the right things and socialise the right way to make them responsible adults.
When parents, especially mothers, get the right learning places for their children, particularly the pre-schoolers, they can peacefully concentrate on their various trades and businesses, work and earn incomes to care for their families and pay their taxes for government to generate revenue for development.
Experts say that children learn during the early years by using their five senses: sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. At this age sensorimotor development is crucial. This means they learn about their surroundings using their senses and motor or muscle movement actions.
For this reason, crèches and schools become the most crucial learning environments in the development of the child, especially the pre-schoolers, as that is where their foundation for all future learning is built.
It is also said that crèches help ensure the holistic development of the child’s social, emotional, cognitive and physical needs that build a solid and broad foundation for lifelong learning and wellbeing.
Children who receive such quality care at the pre-school level are, therefore, more likely to develop social and learning skills at a tender age, which help them to build and maintain better relationships with parents, adults and peers.
Therefore, the importance of establishing these crèches cannot be over-emphasised as they would help ensure that the Ghanaian child gains the needed academic, emotional, and social skills to move to the next level in school.
To facilitate this movement, Mrs Rebecca Naa Okaikor Akufo-Addo, Ghana’s First Lady, has as part of her contribution to quality education, introduced the Market Crèches Project under the ‘Terema Initiative’ of the Rebecca Foundation.
The initiative seeks to support women to improve their economic status and general well-being.
Through Terema, The Foundation is thus putting up crèches in a number of markets in various parts of the country to cater for toddlers and pre-schoolers of traders, especially women, while they concentrate on their businesses.
Currently, four of the crèches are under construction at the Dome and Adenta markets in Accra, Koforidua Zongo Market in the Eastern Region; and the Apremdo Market in the Western Region.
It has been planned that each crèche would have auxiliary facilities including washrooms, changing rooms, a health post and canteen and would accommodate 100-150 children.
The Rebecca Foundation says it is hopeful that building these crèches would serve as safe, accessible, and affordable childcare centres, which will give women and families the choice and opportunity to work in tranquillity.
The many societal dangers that these vulnerable children are exposed to in the markets, including kidnapping and child abuse, adversely affect not just their future but the peace and wellbeing of mothers and families.
An interaction with some markets women in Accra has revealed their yearning for such crèches that are closer to their trading areas to offer a conducive learning environment for their pre-schoolers.
They, therefore, welcome The Rebecca Foundation’s Market Crèches initiative, saying it will help in keeping their children from loitering in the markets and getting exposed to the filth and noise, akin to market settings.
Madam Margaret Donkor, a trader in children’s clothing, says: “We welcome the crèches very much because we can’t even get anyone to leave our toddlers and pre-schoolers at home with, especially when the Free-SHS is encouraging all house-helps to go to school.”
Madam Naa Kai Nunoo, a dealer in hair products, also says the project would help reduce the burden of parents in the market who had to endure the uncertainties of leaving their toddlers in the care of neighbours praying that they would be safe.
“It’s a very good initiative by our First Lady. Knowing that my child is safe at a crèche close-by and being catered for by qualified personnel will give me the psychological and emotional peace to go about my business and support the income of my family,” she adds.
To guarantee the relevance and sustainability of the project, The Foundation is working closely with the relevant state institutions and agencies as well as the beneficiary market associations to ensure that qualified personnel are recruited to manage these facilities.
According to the Foundation, the collaboration would also help in identifying other societal needs of the market women and vulnerable children and facilitate the finding of the appropriate solutions.
The Market Crèches project underscores the mission of The Rebecca Foundation, established by the First Lady in 2017, upon the assumption of office of her husband, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
Through The Foundation, the First Lady has also initiated and executed well thought-through programmes to complement efforts of government in addressing social issues.
The Foundation has other objectives, which include enhancing literacy and learning skills in children, improving the health of children, reducing maternal mortality, improving environmental health as well as providing avenues to increase the economic contribution of women.
It believes that in implementing such programmes, household incomes and living standards would be improved and translate into progress, which in turn, would enforce the gains made by specific developmental interventions.
If the conviction of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) to make early childhood care and education go beyond the preparation for primary school with the possibility to nurturing the future generation is anything to go by, then all well-meaning Ghanaians must endeavour to support the establishment of the crèches and other pre-school centres to ensure that children, everywhere, get access to preschool education.
For Jessica Alvarado, an Educationist, early childhood education “is important because these are critical development years.”
“During this time, valuable relationships are formed in children’s lives, and partnerships developed between teachers, peers, and parents.”
“Please don’t let your child miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”