Graduates of the Early Childhood Development Programme were urged to remember their duty as childcare workers in the shaping of children’s personalities.
Educationist Dr Faith Harding, at the closing ceremony of the certificate programme for the Early Childhood Development (ECD) practitioners at the University of Guyana yesterday, told the graduates that their job is caring for children.
Forty graduates were handed their certificates as ECD practitioners; 25 of them from the level one programme; and 15 from the level two programme. Most of them are workers at day care centres around the country.
“Please don’t take it as I’m just keeping the child till the parent comes it’s more than that,” Harding said, while noting that the slightest trauma can scar a child for life and since they, as child care workers, have the privilege to lay a foundation then they should ensure that those children are reared in the best environment. “Create an environment for the optimum learning experience,” Harding urged.
She said the pivot of education is not only a child’s learning capacity but it’s the environment that surrounds that child. “You have a very important role because the way that a child is introduced in society is important,” she stated, noting that it is an environment of care that removes the trauma children face from an early age. “It’s the environment that makes this possible.”
The children of today, she said are different from the children who grew up in the sixties and are forced to deal with tragic situations, such as domestic violence and rape and molestation. “Our children are facing too much trauma in the homes… So what type of children are you going to rear?” she asked, while insisting that it is the approach of the childcare worker that makes the difference because childhood traumas are the hardest memories to remove.
She charged that it is abandonment at early childhood that is filling the prisons and added that research showed that the majority of the persons in prisons grew up in single parent homes, where there was some form of neglect.
“Traumatic situations are hard to heal in the life of a child therefore we need to offer them an option; we need to be the place where they can come to,” she said, adding that children adapt personality traits from the people who they are surrounded by.
“Science has now demonstrated that early childhood interventions are important because they help mitigate the impact of adverse early experiences,” said Marianne Flach, the Guyana and Suriname representative of UNICEF. She stated that a decline in the intervention could lead to possible “poor health, poor educational attainment, economical dependency…and increased violence and crime,” which create a drain in society.
“The more stimulating the early environment the more a child develops and learns,” she said, while challenging the participants to think about the opportunities they have in the progression of a child’s life. “Think of all the parents who have greater confidence in your ability and competence to take care of their children,” she said.
She also encouraged them to ponder their contribution toward the upkeep of the Early Childhood Development standards. She stated that UNICEF Guyana was happy to be associated with the University of Guyana to ensure that Guyana has a group of certified ECD practitioners.
Noting that there is need for active childhood development throughout Guyana, Flach said they must find a way to gauge whether they are reaching all the children in the country. “We tend to feel that children in the hinterland are among the most vulnerable, but let us not forget the children in the urban and rural coastal areas, who are also vulnerable,” she said.
She stated that they should develop strategic methods to reach children across the country. “We need to meet the needs of all categories of children and plan appropriately for the future of ECD,” she said, noting that the university has to take the lead in educating the public about ECD, “thus creating an excellent pool of country specific ECD research which can guide policy initiatives and programming.”
She added that UNICEF is relying on the university to demonstrate the realities of career opportunities in ECD.
Meanwhile, the statistical report of 2013 showed that there was a 64 per cent increase in the number of students obtaining distinctions in level one of the ECD training as compared to the 2012 report of 40 per cent. Level two remained consistent at 30 per cent.
“I’m very happy that UNICEF has partnered with the University of Guyana and the School of Education and Humanities to provide training for those who are entrusted with the care and development of our young children,” Dean of the faculty Alim Hosein said.
He noted that ECD has moved away from “bottom house” schooling to organised playschools for children. “The Early Childhood Education programme for practitioners is therefore timely and a significant contribution to national development,” he added, while highlighting the fact that the programme brings childhood educators up to an acceptable level of training.
“To all the graduating students I would like to commend you, firstly, for becoming involved in Early Childhood Education and secondly, for your participation and successful completion of this programme,” he said. “I hope that through it you have come to a greater realisation of how important and fundamental is the role that you play in national development.”