International conference on childhood development concludes with crucial message to African leaders

Thursday November 9 2017

By Khalifa Said @RealKhalifax

Dar es Salaam. The 2nd three-day international conference on childhood development concludes with a call to African governments to increase their commitment and responsibility for it is only by doing so that the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals can be achieved.

Although great strides have been made, the governments are yet to make serious intervention in early childhood development due to the presence of competing and pressing societal needs.

Organised by the Aga Khan University Institute for Human Development in partnership with the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and The Aga Khan Foundation under the theme ‘Early childhood development in Uncertain Times: From awareness and evidence to commitment and action’ the conference brought together researchers, educationalists and policy makers from about 40 countries to discuss early childhood development and how well it could be approached so that it bears fruit.

“What will disappoint me the most is if what is done won’t change anything in the country,” said Prof Kofi Marfo, Foundation director of the Agan Khan University Institute for Human Development. “But I don’t have to worry about it because everything I have seen here I know is going to make an impact.”

“The best ways that can help the accomplishments of the effects, is for professionals in education, health, nutrition and childcare to take what has been discussed during the conference to society in which they live so that they can achieve the envisaged goals,” Prof Marfo noted.

Mr Arif Neky is the adviser for the UN Strategic Partnerships in Kenya, who posited that any kind of efforts towards improving human conditions and protecting the planet required societal buy-in and ownership.


He outlined that early childhood development was critical to the development of the children’s brains as they grow up.

“This doesn’t just affect the lifelong learning process by these children, but also lifelong social and economic engagement,” he explained.

He noted that the conference had created a really exciting space for people from a number of countries around the world to share their experience and intellectual ability to find solutions to critical issues.

“This is just one of the many ways Africa can take for the challenges it faces, where countries often have half of the population below the poverty line.”

Prof Joe Lugalla, who is the director of the Aga Khan University stressed the role of the universities in research and scholarship.

He said his university had been at the forefront in analysing pressing development problems facing African countries and Tanzania in particular, and outlining the best ways those problems could be tackled for the benefit of the people.

“The Aga Khan University has a profound community engagement for we believe that it’s by doing that we can make our education more practical and relevant to responding to societal needs and champion changes across the country.”