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Pacific screening of ‘The Beginning of Life’ highlights role of society in giving children the best possible start to life

© UNICEF Pacific/2017/Hing
Pre-schoolers from USP’s Educare at the screening of the movie.

UVA, 31 August 2017 – The first Pacific screening of the documentary, The Beginning of Life – It takes a village to raise a child in Suva on Wednesday brought together education leaders, government, parents, teachers, as well as the University of the South Pacific’s Pasifika Voices Choir renowned for their singing in Disney’s animation ‘Moana.’ About 100 children also attended a shorter session to witness the magical musical performance. 

During the panel discussion, Igelese Ete, Director of Pasifika Voices and Head of Performing Arts at USP, said, “There is a need for fathers to be engaged with their children, not only from birth but also from before birth. It’s important that fathers spend time connecting emotionally, intellectually and spiritually with their children at any young age. Everyone has a role to play in the upbringing of a child.” 

Dr Lavinia Tiko, Coordinator for Early Childhood Education and Care at USP, added, “Families and communities are vital in a child’s life, especially during the first years of life. In the context of the Fijian culture, a child is never alone.” Her colleague, Kelesi Whippy, also raised the misconception in Fijian culture of ‘Noda vaka tatalo’ where playing is seen as a waste of time. “Children learn through play, which needs to be brought to the forefront so children learn comfortably,” she said.

From the government’s perspective, Education Officer for Early Childhood Education, Ministry of Education, Manu Turagabeci, highlighted, “Fiji’s national curriculum on Early Childhood Care and Education is currently under review and is bound to have improved guidelines on children’s early years.”

“The struggle mothers go through is shown clearly in this movie. Lots of people talk about early years but how can we pay attention to it? The quality of early childhood brings about the quality of adulthood. We think a child is a citizen of tomorrow but a child is a citizen born today,” said Director of Early Learning Center Fiji, Analesi Tuicaumia, while speaking on the panel. 

In September, UNICEF will also host a conference that will bring together senior government officials from across 15 Pacific Island countries. This regional gathering echoes the movie’s theme that it takes a whole village to raise children.

UNICEF Early Childhood Specialist, Joy Millan-Maler, explained, “Effective early childhood development takes place when children feel nurtured, cared for, protected and loved. When children receive these, they can develop fully, learn effectively, and in turn contribute to strong and safe communities.” 

The Beginning of Life, supported by UNICEF, is a film that shows the importance of the first years in the life of a child.  The film documents the lives of young children and their families across the world to help shine a light on the significance of the early years, and how a child’s environment during this early stage can shape their thoughts, emotions and social interaction and development. The film shows that an environment rich in love and protection during the early years of children’s lives is one of the best investments that can be made for humanity.

 

 
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