REMARKS BY DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS,
FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
AT THE OPENING OF EARLY CHILDHOOD AWARENESS WEEK
TUESDAY, MAY 25, 2020
EARLY CHILDHOOD AWARENESS WEEK AND CAMPAIGN
May 23rd through the 29th is being observed as Early Childhood Awareness Week. The theme and sub-theme: “Educating All in Changing Times: All Hands Needed” focuses on highlighting the need for us as a community to revisit the way early childhood is approached in our Territory.
The development of a child is a process. While the stages in the process required for that development may be the same, the outcome is not necessarily so. We live in a world that is different to the one we grew up in and is ever changing. Yet, the basic needs remain the same.
‘Educating All in Changing Times’, alludes to the fact that all our Territory’s children are not the same nor are they at the same place. They all share the common need to be educated and this requires a commitment from all stakeholders. ‘All Hands Needed’ reminds us that early childhood education requires input from the entire community.
National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) 2020, highlights that “each and every child, birth through age 8, has the right to equitable learning opportunities.” This right, rooted in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, extends beyond children being in an early childhood centre, in a family home, a school, or otherwise. Equitable learning opportunities across all domains: cognitive, social and emotional, speech and language, physical (fine and gross motor), and spiritual will only happen if, as a community we fully embrace and support their optimal development and learning.
The public sector, private sector, community organisations inclusive of churches and service organisations, families and schools must come together to evaluate our current modus operandi for providing for our children. Investing in early childhood benefits everyone – governments, businesses, communities, parents, and caregivers, especially, babies and young children. For this investment to be fruitful, it must be a continuous process from the early years.
Research has revealed that the first one thousand days of a child’s life are the most critical in children surviving and thriving. The goal must be nurturing care. Nurturing care speaks to providing good health, adequate nutrition, responsive caregiving, opportunities for learning, security, and safety. The earlier we start, the greater the potential outcome. Therefore, let us not wait. Let us begin from conception.
There is a place for the health sector, social sector and education sector. Our policies and procedures must reflect our commitments to supporting the development of healthy families who provide the first support systems to young children. Families need to actively embrace their role in the development of their youngest members. Take every opportunity to learn and understand about the needs of young children. Advocate for appropriate service provisions. Provide, nurturing environments with appropriate boundaries.
There is a place for businesses. We are urging our business community to consider developing policies and procedures to support employees with young children. These policies should be family friendly and supportive to employees. They should also provide maternity and vacation leaves, flexible work schedules and child-friendly spaces to allow workers with childcare constraints to bring their child/children to work as needed. COVID-19 has revealed the possibility of working remotely when necessary. This brings to mind a number of considerations for employers such as; adjusting your policies to include the aforementioned areas. The feasibility of paternity leave to allow fathers to be more involved in the process of caring for mother and child.
We have become a society that judge children’s success by academic achievement, but we must be mindful that this is only one component of success. For our society to maximize the potential of our youth, a holistic approach must be adopted. Therefore, religious and service organisations should be fully involved in this process. 1 Corinthians 12:12 tells us that just as a body, though one has many parts, all its many parts form one body. Our society is made up of many members from many different parts of the world, but we are one Territory and what happens in one part has the potential to create ripples that the whole society feels. These ripples have been more pronounced since late 2017 and continue to the present.
I am pleased to announce the launch of a six-months campaign with a focus on raising the level of awareness within the society about early childhood and particularly the need for all of us to come together to support the holistic development of our Territory’s youngest citizens. This campaign will commence in July and run through to December of 2021. Each month a different area of nurturing care will be highlighted. By the end of the campaign, it is anticipated that more children will be the recipients of greater collaborative efforts to support their physical, social, emotional, cognitive, language, and spiritual development.
Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to declare Early Childhood Awareness Week opened. I encourage all to support the activities for the week.