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close this bookThe Condition of Young Children in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Convergence of Health, Nutrition, and Early Education (WB, 1996, 64 p.)
close this folder2. The status of children In sub-Saharan Africa
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentProgress in human development
View the documentPhysical needs: Survival, health, and nutrition
View the documentEducational profile
View the documentEarly interventions, school readiness and subsequent performance
View the documentThe challenge ahead
View the document3. What can early childhood development programs do?
View the documentImproving child quality
View the documentIncreasing the efficiency of primary and secondary school investments
View the documentEnhancing the economic contribution of the child to society
View the documentReducing social inequity
View the documentAddressing the intersecting needs of women and children
View the documentCreating synergistic effects of health, nutrition, and early stimulation

Early interventions, school readiness and subsequent performance

One of the key factors contributing to primary school inefficiency is that most of the African children are not adequately prepared for schooling when they enter the first grade. Many of them enter the school system malnourished from inadequate food intake, weakened by illnesses and having received little cognitive stimulation as toddlers. Little or no attention has been paid to early developmental needs, especially in poor households. Child quality, those characteristics the learner brings to the classroom that play a significant role in determining school outcomes, is not ensured. The inadequacy of school readiness is reflected not in a child's lack of knowledge about letters and numbers, nor in basic school-related skills such as following instructions or sitting still, but more important, in the capacity of the child to process and respond to stimuli.

When a child gets proper nutrition, health care, and stimulation during the preschool years, the quality of the child sitting in the classroom improves, Active Learning Capacity (ACL) - or propensity and ability to interact with and take optimal advantage of the full complement of resources offered by any formal or informal learning environment - improves. Thus the efficiency of learning improves (Levinger 1994, 1995). However, children in Sub-Saharan Africa are plagued by poor nutrition and inadequate health practices resulting in inadequate ALC for primary schooling. In addition, the heavy work-load at home, especially on girl-children, has resulted in high rates of absenteeism from school. The poor quality of schooling has already been mentioned.