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STATEMENT : Reddy Talks Early Childhood Education Week

The following is a statement by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts on Early Childhood Education Week. Investing in Future Fiji – Our  Children It gives me great pleasure
30 Jul 2016 09:39
STATEMENT : Reddy Talks Early Childhood Education Week
Minister for Education, Mahendra Reddy.

The following is a statement by the Minister for Education, Heritage and Arts on Early Childhood Education Week.

Investing in Future Fiji – Our  Children

It gives me great pleasure to address you all at the launch of the Early Childhood Education Week.  Early Childhood Education (ECE) is a cornerstone to the success of the Fijian Education system and I am profoundly ecstatic that we are all collaborating to reminisce on our accomplishments and echo greater awareness and development of this important sector.

My special word of adoration goes to the lovely and bubbly children who are the most important people in the ECE sector. Our Prime Minister, Hon. Bainimarama, has stated long back that the nature of future Fiji will be determined by how we nurture and educate our children now. Hon. Prime Minister is determined to deliver a knowledge based society where people having knowledge of all factors of production and aspects of life in the society will rise above variables of ethnicity, religion, class systems and make decisions based on logic, reasoning and analytical skills.

The Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts, over the last two years has invested ceaselessly to bringing about the highest levels of quality to all aspects of the Fijian Education Sector. We have injected much needed reforms and transformations to the education sector and are continuing to do so, so that we reach our envisioned targets of accessibility, equality and quality.

The theme for this year’s Early Childhood Education Week which is “Investing in Early Childhood Development and Care for Quality Primary Education”, is as such aptly chosen as it also reflects the Ministry’s action plan to venture robustly towards quality.

Quality output at the national level requires quality inputs, quality (efficient and cost effective) service delivery and for this, we need a mindset pegged firmly on quality always thinking big.

The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 4.2 on Early Childhood Development which was adopted at the United Nations aims to “ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education.”

In pursuance of this initiative, the Government of the day, together with the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts has rolled out various initiatives to ensure that children from a young age are nurtured in all aspects of their development so that they live in and create better societies for all.

A child’s early years are very important. They provide the foundation for the rest of life, from childhood to adolescent and as an adult. Growth of mental and physical abilities progress at an amazing rate and a very high proportion of learning take place from birth to age six. It is a time when children particularly need high quality personal care and learning experiences.

When children are young, they are learning sponges. Every new experience, every word they learn, every behaviour they adopt is an investment in a more fruitful future.  You can never ever create a greater impression on a person than when they are in their early childhood years. Early childhood Education is about improving and moulding the holistic child, which will eventually form the basis of their life long journey.

 

Rooting out all Inequalities

We have taken on the challenge that we are going to root out all inequalities at its inception and here we wish to root out any hindrance that our children may face to have access to quality Early Childhood Education. We have now made it mandatory that all Primary schools must have an associated ECE centre. This is not only liable for urban schools but also for the very rural and maritime zones. Some parents in the past had chosen not to even send their children to ECE Centres citing travel and financial issues. Observing this first hand, our Prime Minister, Hon. Bainimarama has taken off the burden from parents who have to travel long to drop and pick their children. We are ensuring that ECE centres are made available in the vicinity of the village and settlements so that “no child is left behind” in their quest to go to Early Childhood Education Centres.

 

Free Education

Through the Free Education initiative, we are now equipping all ECE centres to have the best facilities available for the children. The FijiFirst Government has made their intentions clear that equality to accessibility of education is paramount.

Under the free education scheme, we intend to see all Fijians benefit irrespective of their race, religion, geographical location and financial status.

In the 2016/2017 budget, for the first time ever, the ECE tuition grant per child which was $50 per term will now cover for three terms and not 2 terms which was the past practice.

 

Early Childhood Education

Teachers

ECE teachers play a pivotal part in the development of education in our Nation as they form that link which connects the children from their home to school. At the moment we have 1235 ECE teachers who are looking after 14,544 students across the country. I salute these hardworking females who are at the helm of our children’s development.

Over the years, they have sacrificed a lot especially, given the fact that their pay was not that substantial and I commend all these women for their perseverance. In 2016/2017 budget, our Minister for Economy, Hon. Khaiyumhas announced a major increase in the salary of these teachers and I am confident that this will surely empower ECE teachers. The salary increase is a ‘win win’ situation for all, as higher qualification will lead to higher pay for the teachers and at the same time develop their professional competency and marketability which will support our quality education drive.

We are now embarking towards attracting more people to take up qualifications in Early Childhood Education.

The increase in salary, uplifting of facilities and working conditions and upgrading of equipment at ECE centres will surely aid us in this project.

 

Partnerships

Added to this, the Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts is effectively partnering with various other ministries, in particular, with Hon. Minister Akbar and her Ministry of Women, Children and Social Welfare to educate members of the public to protect our children and to give avenues to our children to seek professional counselling and guidance in regards to their problems.

We are also working with other Government and non-government organisations to address various challenges and at the same time generate better pathways in the best interests of the child. Added to this, we are rectifying the concerns whereby children are abused from an early age, are neglected and often fall victims to other social issues which create stress, fear and lifelong trauma.

Awareness of child abuse and other child related exploitation in the remotest of communities will assist to safeguard the welfare of our children and support their educational prosperity.

We are working with the Ministry of Health to address concerns of ailments, sicknesses and other health related issues in our small children. Programmes such as, health check-ups and immunisation, proper nutrition, early intervention on sicknesses, detection and referrals of children with disabilities are all being implemented in the best interests of the child.

Following the launch of our Parental Engagement Framework, we are engaging with one of our most important stakeholders, parents to ensure that they provide the right foundation education, nurturing and mentoring to their children so that they feel loved and wanted.

Children should not be searching and wondering for love. If they do, then they will be taken advantage of by those corrupt minds in the society for their personal gains thus, traumatising and destroying the entire future of our children.

We urge all our parents to actively engage with their children and create an environment in which they can seek knowledge, advice and guidance. Children should not be afraid to open up and share their problems with their parents if parents provide a collegial environment. Children are bound to make mistakes and parents must be ready to accept this fact and be ready to talk to them and offer solutions. Parents are the first line of contact of their child and will be the first one to notice any withdrawal symptoms. They must handle that with gentleness, love and care.

Moreover, we often partner with organisations to take important events and issues to these children. Collaboration with Fiji Police Force, library services, museum services, road authorities, sporting groups and community groups at large have assisted us to reach out to some key initiations which has boosted the learning of our children. The latest project being the ‘Virtual Museum’ concept which will now make all ECE children access the Fiji Museum on-line through the assistance of their teachers.

Learning culture, heritage and arts will now be a worthwhile and at the same time a fun-filled experience for the little children.

 

Cyclone Winston Rehabilitation

Our ECE centres were also not sparred of the wrath of Tropical Cyclone Winston.

Building grant for 95 Early Childhood education centres estimated at around $3.4 million has already been allocated for in the recent budget and we want all stakeholders to be rest assured that we are looking at stronger and more strategically built, quality driven structures and general ECE services.

 

2016 ECE Week

All ECE Centres and schools are requested to organise class based and school based activities on the theme. Some of the suggested activities which Districts and schools have been urged towards include:

             An organised march either in the opening or the closing of the week long programme;

             Parental engagement drives;

             Talk by Class 1 or Kindergarten teacher to get children ready for transition from Kindergarten to Year 1;

             Cleaning up – children and parents can clean up the school compound, thus, taking pride and ownership in their school and environment;

             Art/Craft – where parent[s] can be invited to show children how to do some traditional crafts – making waste paper basket from coconut leaves/making fans, hats, sasa or brooms etc;

             Sports Day – Station games/Treasure Hunts/Messy Play using mud, paint or sand or physical training and fun games;

             Planting – Children can make a garden of flowers or vegetables;

             Character Parades – children can come dressed in their dream jobs [who they want to be when they grow up] or favourite characters;

             Watch a movie/cartoon or read a book that portrays family togetherness and friendships – eg. Ice Age/ Happy Feet/Madagascar/etc.; and

             “My Culture Day” – children can come dressed in their traditional costume or/with their traditional food or traditional dance that can be taught by the teachers or parent groups.

 

Key Future Initiatives

Home Edu-Care: Resourcing and Preparing our Little Champs at Home, Ages 2-4

You would note that our little children, ages 2 to 4 stay at home looked after by their nannies or grandparents.

We recognise that these are also a very important and formative years for them. However, to date, we have not seized the opportunity to provide the nannies with some resources which they can use to educate these little champs of ours.

I wish to announce today that we have now embarked on developing resources for nannies and parents/grandparents who will use it to educate their child at home.

We will provide teaching resources using local examples so that these kids can relate to them as their nannies teach them.

We will upload these materials to be downloaded by parents while limited copies will be provided to poor parents in the interior and maritime zones. Children love cartoons. We will develop educational cartoons using local examples and names. We will educate our little champs at home using the medium that they love, “Cartoons”.

This is what our Hon. Prime Minister wants, a revolution in education to deliver a knowledge based society in future Fiji devoid of discrimination, jealousy, hatred and favouritism.

That’s the “One Fiji” that our Hon. Prime Minister is walking towards and it cannot be borne out of thin air. We collectively have to deliver it.

 

Getting Local Content to ECE

Curriculum

The Ministry of Education, Heritage and Arts is working on an ECE curriculum which is more student-friendly and accustoms a Fijian link to education. We are blending in a learning package which takes the children from the known to the unknown.

For example, while teaching the alphabets A, B, C, D and what they relate to, we are using local fruits, vegetables and places first before talking about world-wide things. Through this, we are consolidating a solid foundation of education based on local concepts and things and then slowly infiltrating that with global terminologies.

Apart from this, the ministry is working on the implementation of a more culturally-robust and culturally-informative curriculum. This is being done so that students learn key aspects of their culture, understand others culture and interact with each other in trust, faith and love.

We intend to build on this notion from an early age as these attributes are the basic ingredients for peace and prosperity in our beloved nation.

We are implementing some key life survival skills to be taught in ECE Centres. Training in basic first aid and injury control is now being initiated in small children so that they take immediate and right action in time of injury.

The Ministry is targeting all primary schools nation-wide to have an ECE Centre associated with the school by 2017. This will see us taking education to the doorstep of all Fijian communities.

Moreover, we intend to continue professional development and training of ECE Educators to lift their skills and assist them to tackle contemporary challenges more easily.

We are making our ECE centres more inclusive so that children with special needs are also given the same opportunity and chance for education as any child.

On a whole, we are giving the Fijian education sector a major facelift so that we are on par with the global education standards. Improving Early Childhood Education and injecting quality will certainly boost this drive and vision that we have built.

I wish one and all an enjoyable ECE week and urge all to continue to collaborate with us in our quest to deliver quality service to our future, our children.

Feedback: jyotip@fijisun.com.fj

 

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