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03.06.2005 General News

Veep closes Conference on Early Childhood Devt

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Accra, June 3, GNA - Vice President Aliu Mahama on Friday urged African governments to continue to invest in the `welfare and development of children as the most critical part of their response to the Continent's developmental challenges.

Addressing the closing ceremony of the third African International Conference on Early Childhood Development (ECD) in Accra, the Vice President said the future of the Continent laid in her children and the youth stressing that, "we toy with the future of our children and our youth to our own peril".

The Vice President underscored the need for new insights into capitalising on the strengths in the African traditional family and community norms, and at the same time address some of the negative practices on ECD issues.

He pointed out that for most countries the challenge in basic services was not only its quality, but also availability and accessibility in remote areas.

To this end, the Vice President said the Government had committed itself to the implementation of the Educational Reform, under which the provision of Free Universal and Compulsory Basic Education (FCUBE) was a pillar of Ghana's early childhood development agenda.

"Every Ghanaian child is now a beneficiary of a two-year pre-school programme from age four, as part of the FCUBE, thus ensuring them a solid foundation for rapid progress in basic school and through the entire educational period.

"Issues of development of children are so important that they seem to be embedded in all development programmes on the Continent, with the benchmarks for measuring progress under the Millennium programmes for ECD in Africa.

The Vice President observed, however, that policy must remain focused on practical needs and matched by resources to make it useful, and expressed the hope that the recommendations of the deliberations of the Conference had led to challenges that were inspirational and could be implemented by governments, development partners and the peoples of the African Continent.

Major Courage Quashigah (rtd), Minister of Health, chaired the ceremony and called for dedication to nurture today's children for tomorrow's growth.

Citing Japan, Israel, Malaysia and Singapore as examples, Major Quashigah emphasised that quality basic education, good health and nutrition built a sound foundation for a solid human resource development for economic growth.

Statements were read from the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), UNICEF, The World Bank, UNESCO and the WHO country Representative in Ghana Dr Meville George, who said to be able to address educational needs, it was important for governments to make health care delivery a national priority.

A communiqu=E9 adopted by the 29 Ministers and Representatives of Ministers, at the Conference recommended the use of locally available finance, knowledge, skill, cultural and traditional resources to strengthen ECD programmes, communication and policies to ensuring effective caring practices within families and communities.

They called for investment in and building and strengthening the capacity of families and caregivers, in functional literacy, parental education and reproductive health.

The Ministers equally called for the strengthening of the capacity of families and communities to take care of orphans and other vulnerable children; and to sensitise men in addition to other segments of the population, with a view to getting men more particularly involved in maternal and child care.

On ensuring access to quality basic services, the Ministers recommended the building of strong partnerships between governments, including local government, NGOs, Community and faith based organisations and research institutions.

Ensuring supportive policy environment, the Ministers recommended that priority attention should be given to ECD in major development policies and national action plans and to establish or strengthen the high level multi-sectoral mechanism for monitoring and coordinating ECD.

They appealed to the commission of African Union and the Secretariats of the Sub-Regional bodies and NEPAD to promote and support holistic development and life saving interventions for all infants and young children.

About 300 participants from 42 African countries, including Education, Health and Information, Women and Children Affairs Ministers, as well as experts, development partners, United Nations agencies, and non-governmental organisations attended the conference, which was on the theme: "Moving Early Childhood Development Forward in Africa," The high profile attendance stemmed from the recognition that early childhood development was a key catalyst to the overall development of Africa.

Some of the delegates GNA spoke to, said the conference had increased political commitment to early childhood development in Africa, which to them would facilitate accelerated action at country level and feed into other developments.