Business leaders argue that improving education should be a national cause
ASUNCIÓN, November 24, 2022. Representatives of 60 companies participated in the III Business Forum of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and its Business Advisory Council, where they received information on the reality of education and discussed their role in improving this situation.
The forum included and featured presentations by UNICEF's representative in Paraguay, Rafael Obregón; UNICEF’s Education Officer, María Fe Dos Santos; the Education and Early Childhood Specialist of UNICEF’s regional headquarters, María Paula Reinbold; UNICEF’s Protection Officer, Andrea Cid; and the member of UNICEF’s Business Advisory Council, Víctor González Acosta.
“One in four children is out of school in Paraguay, according to data from the most recent study carried out by the Ministry of Education and Science (MEC) and UNICEF”, said Dos Santos, adding that children between the ages of 3 and 5 are in the group with the greatest educational exclusion. “These are children who are in the first stage of their lives and already feel what it is like to live without one of the fundamental rights,” she said. She added that children and adolescents, who live in poverty, work, belong to indigenous people, or have a disability, are mainly those who are outside the system. The Education Officer emphasized that school inclusion should be a national cause and that employers can contribute by supporting their employees in the education of their sons and daughters.
María Paula Reinbold recalled why in difficult contexts, referring to her recent experience of UNICEF’s support to children displaced by the war in Ukraine, priority is given to the preschool population. In this regard, she mentioned that during the first eight years of a child’s life, approximately one million neuronal connections are created every second, and this does not happen again at any other stage of life. On this point, she emphasized the importance of the role of the private sector in its capacity to influence public policies and investment.
Andrea Cid emphasized the importance of education for the protection and prevention of violence because children who are in school and finish their studies have the chance of breaking the cycle of poverty. She pointed out that the majority of adolescents in conflict with the criminal law did not complete their formal education. The data on educational exclusion increase between the seventh grade and the second grade during adolescence.
Victor Gonzalez Acosta said, based upon his life experience, how education was the bridge that allowed him to excel and overcome in life and reach his status as an entrepreneur with leadership in the country. “We have to turn this issue really into a national cause and to all go after this goal of working on education, especially the education of our children, who are the source of further development, they are the talents that will transform our country in the future,” he said.
Obregón, representative of the international organization, emphasized the commitment of the business sector with the issue of education and stressed or underlined that there are already several institutions that have projects in this area. “I believe that the dialogue we have had today fills us with optimism about possible alliances, about possible solutions and about the importance of continuing to work on this to ensure that every child in Paraguay has not only the right to education, to a complete education, but also to a quality education,” he said.
The forum also served for the presentation of the Companies for Children initiative, which seeks the support of small and medium-sized companies for the projects developed by UNICEF in the country in education, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and protection of rights.
The activity was supported by the Global Compact Network Paraguay (Red del Pacto Global Paraguay), the Paraguayan American Chamber of Commerce (Cámara de Comercio Paraguayo Americana ,Amcham), the Federation of Binational Chambers of Commerce and Service of Paraguay (Federación de Cámaras Binacionales de Comercio y Servicio del Paraguay, Fedecapy), the Ethics and Compliance Pact (Pacto Ético y Cumplimiento, PEC), the Association of Christian Business Owners (Asociación de Empresarios Cristianos, Adec), the Executives Club (Club de Ejecutivos), Kóga, and the Chamber of Advertisers of Paraguay (Cámara de Anunciantes del Paraguay, CAP).
To address the problem of educational exclusion, UNICEF and the MEC have launched an initiative to bring back and retain, over the next three years, more than 30,000 children and create an active out-of-school child search program, an effort that requires the involvement of various sectors, including the business sector, with the contribution of the EAA Foundation.
UNICEF promueve los derechos y el bienestar de todos los niños y niñas en todo lo que hacemos. Junto a nuestros aliados, trabajamos en 190 países y territorios para transformar este compromiso en acciones prácticas, centrando especialmente nuestros esfuerzos en llegar a los niños más vulnerables y excluidos, para el beneficio de todos los niños, en todas partes.
Para más información sobre UNICEF y su trabajo para la niñez, visite www.unicef.org/paraguay.