By Benjamin Flowers, Staff Reporter
The Government of Belize this week, in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund, began working on a national early childhood development strategy.
To develop a comprehensive strategy, representatives from the Ministries of Education Youth and Sports, Health, and Human development gathered at the Radisson Fort George Hotel for a one day strategy session, the first of a series of activities in the strategy’s development.
Ivan Yerovi, UNICEF representative, explained that the main idea is for the three ministries to get together to start building new integrated ECD services.
“The main output to come out of this meeting is to decide how they are going to start building these integrated services,” Yerovi explained, “clear guidelines, clear timelines, and clear actions so we can start building those integrated services.”
Patrick Faber, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports, explained that it was essential for the three ministries to come together because all of them offer services relating to early childhood development.
“Quite often everybody tends to be doing their own thing,” when we coordinate our efforts, especially when we’re working at the same objective. It saves us from a lot of wastage; it gives us greater efficiency; and it helps us to better serve our clients, which in this case is the very young citizens of Belize.”
Maureen-Samms-Vaughn, professor of child health and child behaviour UWI Mona campus, made a presentation on the importance of early childhood development prior to formal education, as well as the model of cross-sectoral collaboration for ECD used in Jamaica.
“The majority of brain development actually takes place between birth and the first three years and children are at home with parents at that time,” Vaughn said. “Parents need to understand the importance of early childhood development in determining a child’s long term performance in school their behaviour and aspects of their health.”