islamabad -  Early Childhood Education (ECED) is considered as an opportunity to address the inequality in provision of education and health worldwide.

But government still lacks the infrastructure to cope this challenge. World Bank report suggests that from both developed and developing countries investing in high quality preschool programs will yield a return of anywhere between US$6 and US$17.

The report also mentions that nearly half of all three to six year old (159 million children) are deprived of access to pre-primary education, while 45 per cent lack access in South Asia.

As per UNESCO report, Pakistan accounts for 08 million children under five years of age who are unable to meet their development potential due to absolute poverty.

Over 6.5 million of these children are not enrolled in primary education. 49 per cent of these children are not enrolled in school at all. And due to ignorance of parents about ECED, the health situation for children aged 0-9 is worsening. Infant mortality rates have also risen to 57 deaths per 1000 live births.

Similarly, education indicators show that 70 per cent of early year’s school intervention is provided by low-cost private sector institutions. Only 64 per cent of the entire population of children reaches the last grade of primary school.

One fourth of the 19.75 million children aged 5-9 are not in school. 07 million aged 3-5 have yet to receive primary schooling. Mehnaz Akber Aziz, president of a non-governmental organization (NGO) ‘Parwan’ is working for ECED in Pakistan for last 20 years.

In two decades, she has expanded her program to all provinces, brining the opportunities of entrepreneurship for youth and mitigating the challenges of malnutrition and out-of-school children living below the poverty line.

She said first 1000 days of a child is most important for him but unfortunately there is no awareness regarding this in public. “Two basic segments, education and health are being neglected at massive level in the country and there is no proper platform to address the challenge she said. President ‘Parwan’ informed The Nation her organization is providing ECED in around 400 centres where the local youth was given opportunity to lead the centres.

“The idea not only contributed in providing ECED to the poor children but also helped in providing employment to the youth,” she said. Parwan provides the funds ranging from Rs 5000 to 50,000, she said.

Currently, some of the centres are operating in Khushab, Kohat, Bahawalpur, Charsada, Islamabad, Dir and Swat. “The Parwan ECED was acknowledged, people joined us and still asking to expand this program in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and FATA also,” she said.

However, the state still has to pay much attention taking the ECED on serious note as section 25-A of the constitution protects the right of education to every child.

“Work we are doing is not enough but it couldn’t be done without the support of government,” she said.

The Ministry of Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) recently introduced ECED in 50 model institutions under public-private partnership.

“We mostly started ECED in rural areas school to bring poor children in mainstream and working in our full capacity,” she said.

However to bring a ‘great change’ 0.5 million ECED centres are required in the country to brought up a healthy and educated generation, said Mehnaz.

According to Amna Bibi, a young entrepreneur in Parwan Preschool at Bara Kahu, initially it was difficult for her to understand ECED concepts in the training. However, with the procession of the training she was able to overcome her stage fright.

“This is just the beginning, I can get many children in my ECED centre as it is the need of area and the children of age 3-5,” she said.

According to Mehnaz Aziz government must come with plan of public-private partnership to enhance this program to every corner of the country.