Stakeholders strategise on the early childhood development sector

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Antigua and Barbuda is the first country in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean State (OECS) territory to take part in the National Sensitisation Exercise to support the Integrated Operations Framework forthe Early Childhood Development (ECD) sector.
A UNICEF-funded venture, the framework seeks to stimulate the further development of a network for information-sharing and council formation involving ministry officials, ECD unit stakeholders, administrators and parents. UNICEF education specialist Shelly-ann Harper, said that more effort must be placed on the implementation of childhood policies that effectively address the needs of children.
“We recognise that it is all about systems [and] we know that early childhood has been receiving increasing attention. The science that we are being exposed to is saying that for children, those 1,000 days – from being conceived to the age of three – is a critical window for learning and we would have to consider that in any policy framework that we are using,” she said. Harper noted that UNICEF has been running the Early Moments Matter campaign that places an emphasis on ensuring that everything that is done will be beneficial to children, especially from birth to three years old.
She said that the window of three years old is the most critical time for brain development and learning social skills, positive development habits and attitudes. “I am not saying that it is not happening all along that time and even further, but, those first 1,000 days are when the brain is most plastic, this is when they learn things the easiest,” Harper added.
She elaborated by saying that despite the many projects being launched, the implementation of such policies needs more effort, and that every child should receive quality early childhood service regardless of his or her social and economic status.

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