Changes in lifestyle patterns and family practices reflect the ways in which global trends have touched lives at the local level across the world. Such changes not only affect how individuals live their lives, they also call for innovative changes in government policymaking. This article highlights the social changes taking place in Tanzania and the associated programs and policies adopted by the country's government in addressing early childhood issues. It serves as an example of how governance at the national level is evolving to meet the demands of the new millennia at the local level.
Children in Tanzania are being welcomed into a society that is rapidly changing from traditional practices centering on family and tribe activities into an increasingly urban lifestyle. The traditional practice of family caring for young children is now being replaced by formal, institutional care. Child care, preschool, and primary schools are becoming more common in children's lives. More parents would like to send their very young children to these programs because they want them to be ready for school as early as possible. However, child care services in both urban and rural areas are limited and often of low quality. Thus, a current focus of advocacy regarding very young children in Tanzania is a push for improved access to quality care.
The government of Tanzania is responding to these demands by developing policies and programs targeting younger children. In order to overcome the lack of coordination among government ministries and departments, the Inter-Ministerial Committee is bringing together key ministries, such as the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training (MoEVT), the Ministry of Community Development Gender and Children (MCDGC), the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW), and the Prime Minister's Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PMORALG). Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are represented by Tanzania Early Childhood Development Network (TECDEN). The development partners community, especially UNICEF, UNESCO, and World Bank, are also represented in the Inter-Ministerial Committee.
In spite of the national government's efforts, however, these developments are not filtering down to the local government level. Strong advocacy for committed and coordinated leadership at all levels is urgently needed to transform emerging policy and programs into implementations. This article considers the current progress in Tanzania in addressing early childhood issues at the policy and program levels and the challenges that the country faces with its rapidly growing society. The article concludes that in order to prepare Tanzanian children for the coming millennium, progress made at the national level needs to filter down to local government authorities.
THE STATUS OF YOUNG CHILDREN IN TANZANIA
Early childhood development (ECD) in Tanzania is slowly becoming a national agenda among policymakers. Families are struggling to raise children as poverty weakens their ability to provide high-quality care--especially for very young children who need it most. Further, children living in rural areas experience more problems than their urban counterparts (United Republic of Tanzania [URT], 2006, p. 4). Despite challenges, however, some positive developments have emerged in recent years. For example, there...