The Arab Network for Early Childhood (ANECD) hosted a webinar in partnership with the Early Childhood Workforce Initiative (ECWI) titled “Initiatives to Support the Early Childhood Workforce” on July 27th, 2023. The event featured the participation of the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), which co-founded the initiative with the Results for Development (R4D) Foundation, as well as the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Center for Lebanese Studies (CLS).
Dr. Ghassan Issa, ANECD’s General Coordinator, opened the webinar by providing an overview of the network’s vision and mission and its interest in ECD workers, and highlighting its flexible structure that encompasses a diverse range of sectors and specializations. He also discussed the national networks for early childhood, some of which are still under development in various Arab countries, emphasizing their importance as key partners of the Network. Dr. Issa nodded to ANECD’s “Arab Working Group for Early Childhood Development”.
Dr. Issa also discussed the ANECD’s strategies and the three approaches within its framework: knowledge production and promotion, partnership and advocacy, and policy intervention. He mentioned that four regional networks, including the ANECD, are working on this initiative.
In a recorded video, Zorica Trikic, the Senior Program Manager at the International Step by Step Association (ISSA), affirmed that the initiative launched in 2016 aimed to raise awareness about the importance of the early childhood workforce, recognizing, preparing, supporting, and empowering ECD workers to provide quality services to children and families for their wellbeing. Trikic also highlighted ECWI’s key achievements over the years.
Zeina Mezher from the International Labour Organization addressed workers’ rights in Arab countries, emphasizing the importance of linking care to decent work principles and fundamental labor rights. She highlighted the need for workers to be able to negotiate with employers and governments. She also emphasized the role of caregivers, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, and the need for various initiatives to create fair care policies. Mezher stressed the importance of approaching care from a gender perspective which is needed in approaching socio economic policies. Mezher introduced the “Global Care Policy Portal” launched by the International Labour Organization, which publishes data and resources related to care policies and services to advance gender equality and non-discrimination. The portal provides over 60 legal and statistical indicators on maternity protection, parental leave, and other care-related services in more than 180 countries.
Mohammed Hammoud from the Center for Lebanese Studies (CLS) presented the results of studies conducted by the center since 2020 on the working conditions of teachers in nurseries and kindergartens in the midst of the Lebanese and the drastic devaluation of their salaries. The studies showed that this year’s average monthly income for teachers was USD 159, a slight improvement from the previous year (USD 131, with USD 128 spent on transportation costs). However, the expected average salary for the next year to ensure decent living for teachers is USD 1,203.
Afterwards, Lara Aoudeh, Programs Manager at ANECD, presented the workforce aspect within the Network’s strategy. She explained that the strategy for the next five years focuses on establishing a comprehensive professional registry for early childhood development specialists as well as integrating knowledge and training courses on early childhood development into university curricula. The goal is to make early childhood development a multidisciplinary approach through coursework at selected universities and vocational schools in the Arab world. Aoudeh also talked about the “Nawwarah” program for mental health support for all those working with young children, and the “Health, Early Learning, and Protection Parenting Program”in Lebanon and Jordan (HEPPP), supported by the electronic platform “Urjouha”.
Mohammed AlBekaii, ANECD’s Coordinator, discussed the second strategic research model on the working conditions of nursery and kindergarten teachers in six Arab countries: Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, and Morocco. He explained that the study adopts a participatory methodology and that the Network is currently in the data analysis phase.
AlBekaii mentioned that the next step is to hold national workshops with experts and specialists in early childhood workforce issues in collaboration with national networks. These workshops aim to present and discuss the results to verify their accuracy and analyze the findings according to each country’s context. They will lead to policy recommendations and programs at the national and regional levels, as well as reports and advocacy campaigns.
Finally, Reem Fawaz, ARC’s Mental Health and Psychosocial Support coordinator, presented the reality of the mental health of caregivers in early childhood during crises. The “Mental Health and Psychosocial Support for the Early Childhood Workforce” project was developed by the Arab Resources Collective and the Arab Network for Early Childhood to enhance the mental health of workers in this sector.
To watch the webinar click here