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May 17, 2017

Government, Agencies Tackle Early Childhood Development

“Positive Play, Positive Minds, Brighter Tomorrow” was the theme of a two-day early childhood development conference convened by UNICEF and several local ministries. As many as a hundred and eighty stakeholders were present for the event that discussed programs that addressed issues related to child development, literacy, as well as parenting, and specialized services for children with different abilities. News Five’s Isani Cayetano reports.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The emotional, social and physical development of young children directly impacts their overall development, as well as the adult they will eventually turn out to be.  Hence, understanding the need to invest in very young children is so very critical, in order to maximize their future wellbeing.  Play, Learn, Grow is a symposium on early childhood development and is the coming together of various agencies, including UNICEF and the Government of Belize.

 

John Newport

John Newport, QADS, Ministry of Education

“The Ministry of Education traditionally has been focused on children in primary school and maybe in the last decade began thinking about children in preschool.  One of the things that we realized a few years ago, maybe two or three years ago is that unless we are pondering with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Human Development, we are not really reaching the children, who before they reach preschool or before they reach primary school.  And with a lot of the new science and research that has come out, the Ministry of Education realized that unless we can find ways of reaching the families of these very young children, we are disadvantaging ourselves because then by the time the children reach primary school they have missed a lot of opportunities to grow and develop and become resilient.  And so a technical working group was set up in which people from the three ministries work together to see how we can coordinate actions or services for our young children to meet high standards and meet the core commitments of the government and are done in such a way that there is no disconnect or discontinuity between services offered by one ministry and services offered by another.”

 

ECD programs differ in coordination and quality, with too little and unequal access, particularly for children below the age of three.  Recent assessments, based on secondhand measures of stunting and poverty, show that two hundred and fifty million children younger than five years, in low-income and middle-income countries, are at risk of not fulfilling their developmental potential.

 

Denise Robateau

Denise Robateau, ECD Officer, UNICEF

“The Government of Belize, along with its key stakeholders and other NGOs, for example, who work in the sectors of education, health and human development are here today to look at early childhood development.  What is taking place today is that there is the launch of the National Early Childhood Strategic Plan.  That was developed to support the development of children from birth unto eight years of age and so over the past two days we‘ve been looking at some of the key recent advancements in ECD and also looking at key interventions that have worked globally, regionally and in Belize.  UNICEF is supporting this initiative and this work.  It’s an inter-sectoral collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture with the Ministry of Human Development, Social Transformation and Poverty Alleviation, as well as the Ministry of Health.  This collaboration is a great platform to champion investment in ECD and the reasons why this investment is important.”

 

Partnering in the initiative is the Ministry of Human Development and Social Transformation.

 

Judith Alpuche

Judith Alpuche, C.E.O., Ministry of Human Development

“The returns on investment for ECDs is one of the highest in terms of human development.  You get between seven dollars to sixteen dollars return on every dollar that‘s invested.  So it just makes practical sense.  Also, in terms of brain development and needing to ensure that children have the best start in life that will dictate later on the kind of citizens that they are.  You know, there‘s a lot of focus on the first thousand days of life and that thousand days starts from day one of pregnancy, where children have the most rapid brain development in the first two years of their lives.  So you really need to get that thousand days right in order to come at this from a holistic point.  All three ministries have to be working together.”

 

The two-day conference concluded today at the Ramada Princess Hotel in Belize City. Reporting for news five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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