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Members of Parliament learn firsthand about effective models for delivering pre-school services

BITOLA, 26 October 2012: Members of the Parliamentary Working Group on the Rights of the Child – a group established within the Parliamentary Committee on Labour and Social Affairs and represented by all major political parties – joined by the representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy child protection sector, today visited three UNICEF supported early childhood development (ECD) centers in Bitola and surrounding areas.

Greeted by pre-school children engaged in creative learning activities, the visit provided the MPs an opportunity to see firsthand how different models of community-based services are reducing the equity gap in pre-school access before the parliament considers amendments to the Law on Child Protection.

Whether through enrollment in a public kindergarten programme or in an  early childhood development center, in this country only 2 in 10 children aged 3 to 5 years attend organized pre-school programmes.  Unfortunately, given the way the system is currently structured, those children who need it most, are the ones missing out. 

President of the Parliamentary Commission on Labour and Social Policy and Chair of the Working Group on the Rights of the Child within the Commission Ms. Cvetanka Ivanova together with a member of the Commission and of the Working Group Ms. Beti Kuzmanovska, during their visit to ECD center in Bitola (left to right) - UNICEF Skopje / 2012

Multigenerational studies across countries have found that all children can benefit from well-designed ECD services, but the biggest impact by far is on those who are the poorest and most vulnerable.  Early childhood development programmes of any kind are only available in roughly half the municipalities in this country.  Enrolment is predominately the privilege of the richest 40% of the population and fewer than 2 per cent of children in rural areas have access to formal programmes.

As part of its ongoing partnership with to the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, UNICEF has been providing support to make the system more equitable.  In preparation for considering amendments to existing legislation, the visit provided parliamentarians an opportunity to learn more about the challenges and benefits of different models for delivering early childhood development services.   

New legislation is expected to be introduced which, if approved by the National Assembly, will introduce diversified services, similar to the community-based models visited; revise the funding formula for ECD services, and introduce provisions to improve the quality of service provided. Some of the expected novelties include: licensing of professional staff in kindergartens; and programmes to insure Early Learning and Development Standards are implemented to monitor the progress of each child.

The UNICEF supported early childhood development programme builds on evidence that expanding ECD programmes is among the most effective strategies  to promote social inclusion (children from vulnerable groups benefit most) and  human capital development (children attending some form of ECD enroll in school on time, have better success in school and better chances for employment).  UNICEF supported ECD interventions include modeling services that provide child-focused and age sensitive learning activities, developing the capacity of caregivers and teachers, and programmes that engage parents in the upbringing of their children through their active involvement in the work center.

For more information, please contact:

Suzie Pappas Capovska, Communication Officer, UNICEF Skopje (02) 3231-150 (ext: 127), 072 236 725 or spappas@unicef.org or Irina Ivanovska, Communication Assistant (02) 3231-150 (ext: 107), 072 236 722 or iivanovska@unicef.org

 

 
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