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UNCRC recognizes the child as an individual who is entitled to his rights as a member of the community. It sets the basic standards for local governments to provide for and to protect the children in terms of basic needs like health, nutrition, education and other aspects. It was adopted by United Nations in 1989 as a tool to protect the best interest of the child and to ensure that every child enjoy equal rights to life, survival and development. As countries are obliged to make regular reports to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, the state governments may have to honour their obligations to provide for the children as stated by the UNCRC. International agencies and global charitable institutions like World Bank and International Monetary Fund provide loans and financial aids to developing countries. In partnership with United Nations to protect children's rights, state governments may be further required to fulfil certain requirements when applying for financial assistance from international agencies. One of the conditions may be to provide for basic needs for the child such as health issues and education and to protect children's rights (Bellamy, 2005).
In addition, since the turn of the century, there seems to be increasing concern and interest in the challenges faced by children globally. World leaders have realized the urgency on the predicament of children living in poverty and rights of the child may be the focus point for international agenda. Most of the United Nations (UN) millennium development goals are focused on challenges faced by children globally, such as to bring children out of poverty and progress to health, survival and education issues (Bellamy, 2005; Woodhead, 2007).
Further to UNCRC affirmation on rights of education, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child interprets education as right to learning and development that start from birth (Woodhead, 2007). As such, much significance may be given to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) in policies development worldwide.
Studies have shown intervention in early childhood may be crucial for the development of a child. Early childhood education and care (ECEC) may be referred to quality care for young children from birth. It includes educating parents to provide and care for children in the aspects of health, nutrition, learning and development (Annan, 2001). An infant, from the day he is born, needs quality care. Inadequate nutrition and unhealthy living conditions may adversely affect a child's development and ability to learn. As such, quality care and education from birth may have positive effect on children ability to learn (Engle, 2009). Children may have equal chance to move out of the poverty cycle through early education as early interventions may have significant benefits in the long run (Grantham-McGregor, 2009; Rosemberg & Puntch, 2003). Through early interventions, these children may acquire values and knowledge that may not be inculcated in their home. They may learn social and cognitive skills that may be useful when they attend formal schooling. With the knowledge and life skills acquired in schools, they may be able to contribute to their community. Thus, ECEC may be useful for state governments and international agencies to provide for the best interests of the child.
Economic benefits may be generated from investments in ECEC. Governments and international agencies invest in early childhood care and education as the economic benefits generated from investment in ECEC will churn greater gains in the future because it may lower health and social risks, like crime rates. Healthy children who are gainfully engaged in learning may be able to contribute to the economy in future. Foreign investors may invest in a country if there are skilled workers who are able to work in their industries. Investment in children will provide them with the necessary skills to attract investments and to boost the economy of the nation (Barnett, 2009).
Different ECEC programmes are devised to cater to the needs of particular community. In some developing countries, mothers may need to be educated on taking care of their children. For example, the mother-child education programme in Turkey provides support for mothers in terms of child health issues. Mothers are taught to take care of their children and specialists educate them on child health, parenting skills as well as to support child's development (Annan, 2001; Bekman, 2009). In some developed countries where health care may be more advanced, the children may need more support in the area of care and education. In United Kingdom, the effective pre-school and primary education prepare children for with skills for transition to primary schools (Sylva, 2009)
Studies have shown that the more effective programmes include all aspects of development such as health, nutrition and learning. Parental and community involvement may also be more spontaneous and adequate in these programmes. Nimnicht (2009) concur intervention programme for children may be effective if there is active participation from all the stakeholders such as families, communities and the governing bodies. As in the case of PROMESA in Columbia, the families and communities are actively involved in the programmes along with some of the mothers being directly involved in the children's activities. As such, UNCRC may make a difference if there are commitment and active participation from governing bodies, international agencies, communities and families to promote child's right (Woodhead, 2009).
It may be challenging to provide quality early childhood care and education to combat poverty in some countries. The state of children's health and development are adversely affected in children living in poverty. The relevance of early childhood models, social and cultural context, co-ordination within families, communities and government bodies play an important role in developing appropriate intervention programme to help children in poverty (Woodhead, 2006; Siraj-Blatchford & Woodhead, 2009).
For example, in the case of a developed country, like USA, one of the objectives of ECEC is to enable women to have equal participation in the workforce and to enable children to learn and socialize (Penn, 2005). As early intervention to curb poverty may not be the main priority, ECEC may be left to private operators and may result in inequalities in quality of programme (Tayler, 2009).
Inequality of quality and access as private sectors tend to cater to the affluent and not set up in poorer regions of the countries. For example, in USA, ECEC is left to individual providers so the quality of care and education is variable and there is inequitable access to these services (Penn, 2005). Individual providers are also more likely to set up ECEC centres in urban areas and this may be incompatible with the government aim to provide quality education for all children.
In the case of a developing country, like Malawi, the ECEC set up in rural areas are community-based with poor program and unqualified staff. Policies develop at national level may not be implemented accordingly at the ground due to lack of resources. There may be unqualified teachers, irrelevant curriculum as well as lack of support from the families and community. For example, the children may need to work to support the families. In some cases where AIDS is prevalent, families with AIDS victims may be ostracized by the communities and therefore ECEC programmes may not be accessible to them (Clark & Tucker, 2010). As such, the effectiveness of early childhood education and care may not be encouraging and thus children in some of the developing countries may not benefit from UNCRC.
In the year 2000, UN millennium development goals were established to improve the social and economic conditions of developing countries (Bellamy, 2005). Majority of the goals were related to children and are targeted to be achievable by 2015. Some of these goals include reducing poverty, improving health and living conditions, primary education, gender equality and families. However, statistics have shown that there has not been much improvement since these goals were set. Children are still living in poverty and poor health. Diseases such as HIV, tuberculosis and malaria may still be widespread (Bellamy, 2005).
International agencies have been working with some of the poorest countries to ensure that priorities of international aids go to children for health and development. These schemes have not been successful due to poor co-operation between state and local governments and the communities (Bellamy, 2005).
Although many countries have become wealthier in the last decade, the poor still remain poor as the gap between the rich and poor countries widen. This may be due to decline in international aids, widespread of diseases, conflicts and war as well as to inappropriate use of funds by state governments. Thus children in poverty may still be living in poor conditions (Annan, 2001).
UNCRC may be an international law, besides, the legal jurisdiction in the countries which have ratified it, the convention calls upon the moral obligations by state government for enforcement (Annan, 2001). In order for UNCRC to make a difference to children, state governments and international agencies must be committed to placing children in first priority. All decisions in nation-building as well as economic growth should be considered with the rights of children in mind. In addition, stakeholders, such as, international agencies, government bodies, communities, families and children need to play their part in achieving the objectives set by UNCRC.