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:
Windhoek, Namibia 1997. First Regional ECCD Seminar / Institute
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.
Kampala, Uganda 1999. First African International ECD Conference
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.
Victoria, Canada 2008. ECDVU SSA-2 Convocation
A third key group, mid-career, decision-making professionals in governments and NGOs, were an important element in the 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).
Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire 2016. 6th African Scholars Workshop
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.