The Early Childhood Development National Strategic Plan was launched in 2017, to ensure that investment in a child’s life from early is established in order for that child to go on to achieve lifetime success. The government departments which are tasked to execute this are the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Human Development and key to establishing this is being interconnected. Today, a workshop was held to measure that interconnectedness and improve it in areas where it is deemed necessary. Love news spoke with Dr. Natalia Beers, Maternal and Child Health Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Health who said that the interconnectedness will help to better track children to ensure that they are receiving the proper care.
Dr. Natalia Beers – Maternal and Child Health Technical Advisor at the Ministry of Health: What we are looking at is early childhood development; that refers to children 0 -8 years and what we are pursuing is to strengthen the collaboration that already exists among the three line ministries with the goal that we can shortly have a system in place that will help us identify children that are lacking services that they should receive according to age so that we can go and look for them or refer them to the necessary institutions to get the services. For example we already have a strong collaboration with Ministry of Education so children that have pending vaccines then they would call the Ministry of Health, identify the kids and tell us what are the vaccines that are pending and then we plan accordingly to get to the school and provide the service there.”
Indeed this strategy is mirroring the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”. Love news also spoke with John Newport, the Principal Education Officer at the Quality Assurance and Development Services, who reiterated that the workshop aims to ensure that the ministries are well coordinated to help children thrive.
John Newport, the Principal Education Officer at the Quality Assurance and Development Services: “Professions who come into contact with young children are not just looking at one little thing but looking at everything. And so I say this is something we’ve been working on now for several years. There is a technical working group which has people from the different ministries that meet together once every month or so and so far that’s really been working well at the level of policy. Really we want to bring everything to the level of the individual child. So for example is there a way that we can track children so that if a child is seen to be at risk in a preschool we can communicate that information to the Ministry of Health as well because the chances are if a child is at risk in a school setting they’re probably at risk in terms of their health or they might be at risk in terms of what is happening in their families. Beyond that all the agencies we’re talking about work with families and the real development of young children takes place in the home. So how can we work together to make sure that all parents, all families are trying to provide the best possible chance for the child to succeed ?”
The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, has been providing technical support for this initiative from its inception and was also present at today’s workshop. Love news spoke with Denise Robateau, Early Childhood Development and Education Officer at UNICEF who said that this initiative is positioning Belize to lead in the region in a cohesive early childhood development policy.
Denise Robateau, Early Childhood Development and Education Officer at UNICEF: “We’ve supported the Early Childhood Development National Strategic plan and really that plan seeks to increase the investment for children in the age group of 0-8, before they are even born to eight years old children are prioritized because it’s an optimal time of development. So UNICEF with technical assistance, with financial resources and with just being a collaborator in this work is supporting children having access to quality early childhood development and to have a better chance in the start of life. So the workshop today is a series that’s been taking place since August looking at the child in the center and how we can track the child throughout the stages of that child’s life to see how that child is getting the proper care, access in health, education and human development.”
Robateau added that UNICEF representatives and other stakeholders are in Chile learning more about providing optimum care for children in their early years.