ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: February 18, 2013 08:45 PM GMT
The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, have launched a joint US$18 million project to help about four million poor children in six Philippine cities.
Entitled "Early Learning for Life," the project will operate in targeted areas of high need across the country.
Tomoo Hozumi, UNICEF country representative, said he expects the return on the investment in childhood learning to be "extremely high."
He cited a recent study which shows that every dollar spent on early childhood care and development (ECCD) returns as much as $12 on the value of human development.
Hozumi also said that investing in the most disadvantaged children is "justifiable first and foremost from the viewpoint of human rights."
Teresita Inciong, ECCD Council head, said early childhood education will improve the country’s high dropout rate.
“Ages from zero to four years old are crucial for brain development and it’s irreversible if we fail to catch up," she said at the launch of the project in Quezon City today.
The project will be implemented by UNICEF with the departments of social welfare, education and ECCD.
Social welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman told ucanews.com the project will focus on children who are in the most disadvantaged condition, especially those trapped in the conflicts in Mindanao.
Soliman said the project will also help the government establish more day care centers on isolated islands as well as relocation sites for displaced children.
The country has only 45,000 day care centers, most of them managed by day care staff who earn a meager allowance of about $12 a month.