The primary caregiver during the very early years of the child's life is the mother. Men play a fairly minor part in the early developmental years of the child. "In Malawi most men are traditionally distanced from their children; they rarely hold and play with them. (ibid)
However this situation changes as the child grows up, and there is later more interaction between father and child.
Overall, however, men are generally associated with the provision of financial support while women are seen as the ones responsible for nurturing." (ibid) Early childhood education is largely the responsibility of the mother and community and takes place mostly at home. It is essential non-formal in the rural areas, with the child being taught by the mother and siblings.
However, many of these cultural practices are being modernized. " Most traditional childrearing practices persist to date in some form, although they have been influenced by changes occurring in the society as a whole. For example, pregnancy is no longer as sensitive a subject as it was." (ibid)
Greater numbers of children are being born in hospitals and health centres and many traditional practices with regard to rearing and development are not being followed.
Kenya has become more "westernized" than Malawi and although traditional customs regarding childhood development do exist, education and development have been largely modernized. Research indicates that childhood development and education patterns in African countries can be assessed in terms of a historical pattern. This pattern refers to the transition from traditional to transitory and then to urban cultures. Countries like Kenya are still in the transitional phase but most of the country has adopted an urban culture with the concomitant effects on traditional ways of perceiving childhood development. However the country still has a high infant mortality rate. "The infant mortality rate is 67.99 per 1,000 live births, while the life expectancy is 46.5 years for men and 48.4 years for women (World Almanac, 2002)."
One of the most prominent aspects of Kenyan attitudes towards childhood development is the sense of community and the spirit of Harambee. "Since independence, early childhood education (ECE) in Kenya has expanded rapidly throughout the country, in the spirit of Harambee." (Myers, G. 1992)
This is a community-based program and has been very successful in fostering childhood development and education. "...early childhood education in Kenya has a more legitimate claim to its community base than most programmes found in other countries. " (ibid) in effect this program points to the realization in Kenya that early childhood education is a key element in the growth of the country. As a result of this view there has been a dramatic increase in education at all levels. This includes nursery schools and childcare centers.
In the years of British colonialism there was extreme segregation of assets for African education. " Kenya's system of early childhood care and education reflected a separate and stratified society, with Europeans receiving educational resources superior to that received by people from Asian and Arab cultures; Africans came last." (ibid) This situation changed in the late 1960's with a large-scale increase in childcare and education facilities.
The modern Kenyan attitude towards child education is characterized by the spirit of Harambee. This is a movement and spirit of cultural and social cooperation in the effort to upgrade and unify childhood development and education. Historically the word Harambee means Let's pull together." (ibid) This national policy has been supported at the grassroots and community levels and has resulted in the mobilization of community skills and expertise to achieve economic and educational goals.
Evans J. Childrearing practices in Sub-Saharan Africa. 1994. April 30, 2005. http://188.8.131.52/search?q=cache:BhcaLY5u9HwJ:www.ecdgroup.com/download/cc115bca.pdf+early+childhood+development+malawi+culture&hl=en&start=5&client=firefox-a
Malawi: World Education Forum) May 1, 2005. http://www2.unesco.org/wef/countryreports/malawi/rapport_1_1.html
Mbugua, Tata J. "Early Childhood Care and Education in Kenya." Childhood Education 80.4 (2004): 191+. Questia. 3 May 2005
Myers, G. Towards an analysis of the costs and effectiveness of community-based early childhood education in Kenya. 1992.
May 2, 2005. http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:_kUvf0ojpcgJ:www.ecdgroup.com/download/aa1tacea.pdf+EARLY+CHILDHOOD+DEVELOPMENT+EDUCATION+kenya+&hl=en&start=9&client=firefox-a
NIU Early Childhood Education. http://www.cedu.niu.edu/tlrn/kenyasummerstudy.html. May 1, 2006.