ECD in Africa


  • A fourth group targeted as key for broad and sustainable ECD capacity development in SSA are Scholars and Institutions (AS&I), an initiative launched in 2008/2009 by Pence and long-time ECDVU colleague, Prof. Kofi Marfo. The African Scholars Workshop (ASW) series has brought together 64 scholars from 24 SSA countries through a series of five workshops from 2010-2016.
  • A third key group, mid-career, decision-making professionals in governments and NGOs, were an important element in capacity promotion and were addressed largely through the Early Childhood Development Virtual University (ECDVU, 2000-present), a graduate level, largely web-based community of learners and leaders program created by Pence in 1999/2000. The ECDVU completed its 5th SSA delivery in August, 2016—a collaboration with a Nigerian University that is now positioned to continue program offerings on its own (there have been a total of 138 graduates from 17 SSA countries through the ECDVU program’s 5 deliveries with 137 of the 138 graduates remaining in Africa—brain gain, instead of brain drain).

Windhoek, Namibia 1997

First Regional ECCD Seminar / Institute

Countries participating in ECDVU deliveries

Countries participating in seminars

  • The seminar proposed for 1999 to take place in Kampala, Uganda with primary support from the World Bank morphed, at the suggestion and leadership of Pence, to become the first of four African International ECD Conferences. The 3rd (co-led by Pence, 2005) and 4th Conferences (led by Vargas-Baron, 2009) focused increasingly on engagement with political leaders, with the Dakar 2009 Conference including over 600 participants from 40 SSA countries, with 140-plus of the attendees being SSA Ministers or their representatives.

The following maps indicate the countries within sub-Saharan Africa that the Co-Chairs' work, as identified in the four initiatives, has had impacts. The participating countries are shown in purple.

Prof. Pence’s work in sub-Saharan Africa commenced in 1994 when UNICEF invited him to work with them in promoting capacity for ECD. The invitation was based on Pence’s internationally recognized work with Canadian First Nations’ communities to develop their own community-sensitive approaches to ECD. UNICEF felt that the strengths-focused, culturally supportive, ‘generative’ approach he co-developed with First Nations would be effective in the Majority (Developing) World as well.

Over time different programs and approaches to ECD capacity promotion were developed to address various key stakeholder groups in sub-Saharan Africa:

Countries attending International conferences

Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire 2016

6th African Scholars Workshop

  • The initial vehicle was a series of 2-3 week seminars, with invitations issued by UNICEF to 30-35, primarily governmental and training/education leaders in 10-12 SSA countries per seminar. These sessions took place in 1995, 1997 and 1998.

UNESCO Chair in Early Childhood Education, Care and Development

Victoria, Canada 2008

ECDVU SSA-2 Convocation

Countries participating in AS&I Workshops

The UNESCO Chair in Early Childhood Education, Care and Development (ECD), with
Prof. Alan Pence as the chair-holder, was established in 2008 with a primary focus on the promotion of capacity in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) for the care and well-being of young children (see overview below). In 2017, with the 3rd renewal of the Chair, Pence proposed modification to a Co-Chair structure that would include a ‘next generation’ African ECD leader.  Prof. Hasina Banu Ebrahim, a 2007 PhD graduate from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, prodigious scholar and Professor, University of South Africa (UNISA), was an outstanding candidate and was approved by UNESCO. The Co-Chairs work closely to extend and expand the long-standing goals and objectives first approved by UNESCO in 2008.

Kampala, Uganda 1999
First African International ECD Conference