By Orville Williams
This year’s observation of Child Month in Antigua and Barbuda will be focused on highlighting the importance of the symbiotic relationship between three of the most important institutions in the child-rearing process.
That declaration was made via state media yesterday by Education Officer responsible for Early Childhood Education, Embler Spencer.
She explained that the idea to focus on that importance came from the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and their own response to said challenges.
“Our theme last year was ‘Creating stability in the midst of uncertainty’ and in the process of trying to create that stability, we recognised the importance of the family, the school and the community working together.
“We recognised also that because of the importance of education in a child’s life in the first 1,000 days, it is very important that we maintain that kind of stimulation,” she said.
Following on from that realisation, the theme for Child Month this year is, ‘Working hand in hand, family, school and community ‘, and many of the activities – though restricted somewhat by Covid – will be promoting meaningful engagement within and between these institutions.
One in particular, Spencer said, is meant to encourage positive attitudes toward mental health, even at the early childhood stage.
“We still have our parent interactions, [but] we’re not encouraging parents to go into the schools. What we are encouraging them to do is to spend time with their children, creating something that says ‘things that make me happy’.
“The environment is such that we are very aware of the importance of mental health. We see it playing out and everybody is very concerned about adults, but we know that children are people too, so you need to make sure that you create that sense of wellness as well for them.”
Meanwhile, she assured that the resumption of the early childhood subsector, amid the ongoing pandemic, has progressed without any significant hindrances.
It was necessary to resume operations for both the sake of the children and the parents, she noted, adding that the continued success is down to the importance placed on safety.
“Our sector has been open with face-to-face since August [and] the stipulations are that anyone within the early childhood centre must be fully vaccinated. With that, we’ve been able to keep our doors open [and] that has created, for parents, a safe place to leave their children.
“We’ve had very few [Covid-related] events. The one or two schools that may have had a scare, those were handled pretty quickly by the Ministry of Health and things are back up and running, so our sector is doing quite fine,” Spencer added.
Child Month was officially launched last week and is now observed in November, having previously been marked in October.