Chairperson envisions the IECD as a “laboratory of ideas”

In a significant stride towards enhancing early childhood development, Dr. Mmantsetsa Marope, Chairperson of the Institute of Early Childhood Development (IECD), recently addressed the outcomes of a pivotal threeday workshop in the country. This event, facilitated by IECD, brought together 30 participants from 18 Eastern and Southern African countries to discuss and strategize on early childhood care and development (ECCD) under the UNESCO Category 2 Institute.

Dr. Marope at a meeting with some Ambassadors to Seychelles

Reflecting on the workshop, Dr. Marope expressed her satisfaction with the event’s success. “For the first international event of the Category 2 Institute, this was very good. The turnout was very good. We had 18 countries and 30 participants, including senior officials such as permanent secretaries, directors, and high experts in IECD,” she noted.

She emphasised the quality of discussions, describing the dialogue as “very high level.” She highlighted the workshop’s atmosphere, filled with “people who have agency and want to forge ahead with ECCD in their respective countries.”

This enthusiasm, she believes, is a strong foundation for future progress. “The overall impression and my takeaway are that this was a good start. It can only get better in terms of scale, geographical footprint, deepening the dialogue, and increasing the impacts.” Addressing the critical question of the workshop’s impact, Dr. Marope stressed the importance of tangible outcomes. “The problem with these events is that they can often turn into talkshops instead of workshops. What I would not want to see is us reconvening with the same list of challenges. We need momentum, and the IECD is here to follow up.”

She urged for continuous progress and emphasised that the time invested by participants should yield significant dividends. Dr. Marope articulated her vision for the UNESCO Category 2 Institute, emphasising its global mandate. “The Category 2 Institute is not just for the region; it’s for the world. It’s a global institute,” she stated. One of the key future areas of focus is knowledge creation and management. “Knowledge brokerage is crucial. We need to sift through the plethora of information and provide practitioners with accessible, impactful knowledge,” she explained.

Dr. Marope envisions the IECD as a “laboratory of ideas,” an incubation centre for new trends in the ECCD. “We need to pilot new approaches before taking them to scale. IECD should test and validate these methods, giving others the confidence to adopt them,” she said. She further placed emphasis on the institute’s role as a capacity builder. “IECD should be a capacity builder, providing training, technical assistance, skills transfer, mentoring, and coaching.”

However, she stressed that for IECD to build capacity effectively, it must first enhance its own capabilities. “The biggest challenge for the authorities is to enable IECD to build its capacity very fast so it can play its role as a capacity builder going forward.” Monitoring and evaluation are critical components of IECD’s strategy. “We need data to track impact and effectiveness. Initiatives like the CIBSS (Child Information and Benefits System) are vital for realtime tracking of service delivery and impact,” she explained. Dr. Marope underscored the importance of leveraging technological advancements to improve service delivery and impact assessment.

Addressing the broader concept of holistic early childhood development, Dr. Marope clarified, “When we talk about holistic early childhood development, we mean enabling the growth of a wellrounded human being. This includes health, nutrition, education, and overall wellbeing.” She stressed the need for a comprehensive approach, stating, “If we focus only on education, children will die. Health, nutrition, and safety are fundamental.” Dr. Marope acknowledged the challenges ahead, particularly in transitioning IECD from a national to a global centre of excellence. “This transition comes with much higher responsibility, costs, and demands. The talent pool must be worldclass. We need sufficient resourcing in terms of physical, human, fiscal, and technological resources.”

Dr. Marope’s address highlighted the significant strides made by the UNESCO Category 2 Institute and outlined a robust vision for its future. Her emphasis on tangible outcomes, highlevel dialogue, and comprehensive development sets a clear path for the Institute to follow. “We have a base, but to work at a global level is a dramatically different responsibility. These are some of the future plans we envisage for the IECD,” she concluded, marking a new chapter in the Institute’s journey towards becoming a global leader in early childhood development.

Courtesy: J. Marie (