March is Child Stimulation Month and the Early Childhood Unit within the Quality Assurance and Development Services of the Ministry of Education is overseeing several activities for children throughout the month countrywide. Officially opening the month was a pre-school parade in the six districts. Love News was at the Memorial Park this morning to witness the three and four year olds get in queue in their costumes to parade to the Battlefield Park. Nadira Ross is the Deputy Manager of the Early Childhood Unit who explained that this year the children are representing several areas of learning in the preschool curriculum.
“We are kicking off child stimulation month with an opening parade and this year the parade takes the shape of a theme based parade and when I say theme based we are taking themes from out of the curriculum that we use and we are bringing that to life and out to the public and creating that awareness that the stake holders who are in tuned with Early Childhood know that this is what we do at preschool, so you might see the little ones today being little community helpers, you might see them portraying shapes and colors and numbers and all these themes that you will be seeing these little ones marching in will be themes coming out of the curriculum. Early childhood is from birth to eight but when we look at child stimulation month and we are observing child stimulation month we are primarily catering for preschoolers who would fall in the age bracket of three to four years old. So all the activities that we will be doing for child stimulation month will be center around our preschoolers getting that stimulation and foundation start in primary school.”
Education Minister, Patrick Faber joined in the parade and spoke to Love News on his ministry’s role in early childhood development.
“We always try to encourage parents to not only do this in the month of March but to do this all year long, this is the start of the education of our children and we want them to get a good strong start, a good strong foundation and so it’s very important that we encourage children, encourage their parents especially and try to make sure that the environment is one that is encouraging that strong foundation. You know we are engaged in a number of I wouldn’t want to say activities because it’s our system it’s the way we operate on a daily basis but for us we start long before early childhood education we actually start with early childhood development and we are in partnership with the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Human Development and what we do is that we start from birth and we go all the way up to standard one so you will see that while it is only the preschoolers who are here today our efforts to get our children to start strong start before preschool and continue even beyond preschool all the way to standard one in our school system.”
“Is there any kind of monitoring and evaluation process to ensure that basically what is required for these preschoolers and early childhood development is done?”
“There is a lot to be desired in that regard as you know early childhood education at the preschool level is not mandatory the mandatory school attendance age is 5 and so there is still a lot to be done in terms of what we do in early childhood development but also in early childhood education and so we have over time tried to expand access to preschools and we’ve tried to put in the support for day cares and also what goes on in those two years of preschool and also what goes on in the lower level of primary school but I’m saying there is a lot to be desired because strictly speaking it’s not a part of the mandatory education provision that the government is obliged to put in. If you wanted my opinion on that I believe that we really do need to make efforts to try to insist that at least from preschool there is this kind of mandatory attendance because it is very important as all will tell you.”
According to Ross, there are much more activities on the calendar for Child Stimulation Month across the country.
“The entire month of March is observed as Child Stimulation month as you just said and today we start off with the opening parade and we have activities such as preschool festival of arts that is a time when everybody looks forward to seeing their little ones go up on stage and then we have activities such as sports day where the schools come together and they have field activities for their preschoolers, we have cultural day where they will set up cultural places in their centers to depict the different ethnic groups that we have in Belize and also we have the early childhood education and development expo which will culminate this year’s child stimulation month and that happens on the 30th of March for Belize district and countrywide as these activities happen they are happening simultaneously for today an opening ceremony will be happening in Orange Walk and Toledo and so forth and during the week of the 27th to the 31st of March we will be having the early childhood and education expo in respective districts and you heard me say early childhood education and development because we are not only focusing on the educational aspect of developing that child we are also including the other two line ministries which is the Ministry of Health and Human Development to engage in this whole stimulation and having parents know that that window of birth to five is very crucial in developing and ensuring that best possible start for your young one.”
An opening ceremony took place at the Central Park in Punta Gorda as we hear in this report from correspondent Paul Mahung.
“The event at the Punta Gorda Central Park had the participation from students from some 24 Toledo preschools along with teachers and parents. Opening remarks were said by Toledo District Education Center Manager Dr.Carmen Lopez Avila.”
DR CARMEN LOPEZ AVILA
“Play positive mind a bright future tomorrow is a fitting theme for our months celebration. We all know that a positive environment is very essential in the development of a child they grow positively with positive attitudes and behavior. It helps each and every child today, tomorrow and every day to discover themselves. They learn to be more social beings, express true love and happiness and importantly they learn to share and care for all around them. The Ministry of Education preschool centers homes and communities need to continue to work together to help the little ones to play positively for their little minds to grow with positivity and the community we live in today, tomorrow and the future will celebrate community members who are happy, healthy, successful, have high self-esteem and self-confidence. Remember positive play, positive minds create a brighter future. God loves our children.”
“The ceremony also included on stage presentations including poems, songs and dances by students of the participating preschools and thereafter a parade through principal streets of town.”
In Belize there are currently two hundred and twenty nine preschools with over seven thousand five hundred students enrolled.