First National Early Childhood Care and Development Forum
27 May 2010, Port Moresby -- Papua New Guinea will hold its first ever national consultation Forum on Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) from 2-4 June 2010 in Goroka. The consultation will bring together leading academicians, civil society partners along with the Government to create renewed recognition on the importance of early years in the formation of a person’s intelligence, personality, social behavior and physical development.
The Forum is being sponsored by the National Department for Community Development and UNICEF with support from the University of Goroka, National Department of Education and the National department of Health.
The early years of life are crucial. When well nurtured and cared for in their earliest years, children are more likely to survive, to grow in a healthy way, to have less disease and fewer illnesses, and to develop thinking, language, emotional and social skills.
This Forum provides an opportunity for Papua New Guineans to learn from each other and international perspectives on how to provide holistic ECCD services in resource constrained environments, re-examine the national policy objectives and how to implement.
The Government of PNG approved the National Early Childhood Care and Development Policy in 2007. The policy provides a template for collaborative and cooperative effort between relevant sectors, towards meeting the holistic needs of children from birth to six years old.
The inter-sectoral committee on Early Childhood comprised of the National Department for Community Development, National Department for Health and National Department for Education provides a mechanism for cooperation and collaboration between the three departments and other stakeholders.
“Full implementation of the policy remains a challenge. Indeed, the National Early Childhood Care and Development Policy recognizes ECCD as a neglected area. A gap remains in services that address the developmental as well as the survival needs of children under 6 years old,” said Dame Carol Kidu, Minister for Community Development .
ECCD also has strong linkages with Papua New Guinea Vision 2050. The stated Vision for Papua New Guinea is “We will be a Smart, Wise, Fair and Happy Society in 2050.” Early Childhood Services are critically linked to two key pillars of the Vision; 1) Human Capital Development, Gender, Youth and People Empowerment and also 2) Spiritual, Cultural and Community Development. It has been shown that experience-based brain development in the early years of life sets neurological and biological pathways that affect health, learning and behaviour throughout life.
Early Childhood Development shapes: gene expression and neural pathways; emotion, regulates temperament and social development; perceptual and cognitive ability; physical and mental health and behaviour in adult life; and, language and literacy capability.
“It is critical to provide effective and essential actions at each phase of the life cycle of the child, including in pregnancy, early childhood, preschool and school-going years and adolescence. It assists parents, teachers, service providers, policy makers and other duty bearers to provide age-relevant support, care and protection for children in a holistic manner”, said UNICEF Representative Bertrand Desmoulins .