Speech by the Vice President, Mr. Danny Faure on the occasion of the Launching of the National Early Childhood Care and Education Conference Monday 21st February 2011, Constance Ephelia Resort

24 February 2011 | Education

Speech by the Vice President, Mr. Danny Faure on the occasion of the Launching of the National Early Childhood Care and Education Conference
Monday 21st February 2011, Constance Ephelia Resort
President Michel & Mrs Michel,
Chief of Justice,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Members of the National Assembly, 
Dr. Mmantsetsa Marope,
Dr. Sharon Lynn Kagan,
Distinguished Guests,
Conference Participants,
My Dear Children,
Good Evening.  
I join hands in extending a warm welcome to you all to this memorable event.
A special welcome to our international guest speakers, Dr. Marope from UNESCO, Dr. Kagan from Columbia University in USA.  
We also welcome Mr. Christian Morabito, the UNESCO focal point and Mr. Roland Alcindor, from UNDP Office in Mauritius.
Your presence here to participate in our first ever national conference on early childhood care and education is testimony of your support, your desire to walk with us and be part of our action and ultimately your love for children. I thank you for this.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is said that, ˜What we do to our children today, they will do to our society tomorrow’. 
This is indeed a powerful statement and we need not go anywhere else to have a forceful cause to ensure that young children have the best in terms of education, health and social services.  They are a country’s most precious resources.
The world is slowly but surely becoming aware and showing recognition that the rights of young children have to be protected and their needs fulfilled if we want to create a better society in the future.
It is no mere coincidence, that the first Education For All goal focuses on the youngest and most vulnerable members of society - our children.  Achievements of all the other five goals depend largely on this first and most crucial one, the expansion and improvement of early childhood care and education.  
Therefore, it is imperative that maximum effort and commitment are dedicated to ensuring that the education, health and social aspects of the lives of children at this early stage are effectively addressed.
This should be a priority of every nation and should be an integral and systematic component of all national development programmes.
I would like here to reiterate what research has shown on early childhood as the most formative years of a child’s life, a unique period when the child’s character and personality are being built, a period regarded as critical for the production and development of cognitive skills and improving school readiness and for laying the foundations for the achievement of full human development and lifelong learning. 
The theme chosen for our national conference “Starting Strong - Winning for Children” says it all.  If we start strong, we cannot go wrong.
In September 2010, during the first World Conference on Early Childhood Care and Education, under the theme Building the Wealth of Nations, leaders of government and other partners heightened global awareness and policy dialogue on ECCE as a fundamental human right and its relevance to individual and national development and prosperity.
They reaffirmed their commitment to improving early childhood development programmes through the adoption of the Moscow Framework for Action and Cooperation in which they pledged to establish stronger legislation, policies and strategies to ensure more effective programme delivery and to seek better mechanisms for harnessing resources for ECCE.
Seychelles participated in this conference and on behalf of my country, I made a firm commitment to strengthen and take our national early childhood care and education programme further.
In Seychelles, we recognise and believe in the fundamental value of childhood and the child’s inherent and uncontested rights to protection, provision and participation in quality care and education programmes from a very early age.
It is our country’s goal to ensure that every child has access to complete and comprehensive education from the day they are born to the day they start a career.  For ten years out of this period, education is free and compulsory.
We have expanded ECCE and will continue to improve the quality of the services on offer because we know the first years of life are vital in preparing future generations for school and work place success.
Through our commitment to people-centred development, we are today proud that we have been able to achieve a lot in terms of health, education, care and well being for our people.  Our gross enrolment rate in pre-primary education is above 100% and under-five mortality rate remains low with only 12 out of 1000 live births in 2008.  We have achieved most of the Millennium Development Goals.  
Where the education and well being of our children are concerned the political commitment is strong and very much active.
This is evident through the importance we give towards funding for education and health sectors.  These two sectors have always received the greatest portion of our national budget. In 2011, education has been allocated 24.8% and health 25.7% of the overall budget.  We will continue to improve on this.
As a country, Seychelles has made an engagement that early childhood care and education will never be the forgotten item on our development agenda.
It is barely 5 months after the UNESCO World Conference in Moscow and as part of our country’s commitment to the Moscow Framework for Action and Cooperation and already we have started with an initiative to review our current ECCE policies and to develop a national framework and coordination and enforcement mechanisms, that will guarantee the successful implementation of programmes and services for our young children from 0 to 7+ years.
Special emphasis will be placed on the early childhood pre-school, level 0 to 3 years, which up to now, has been largely under the purview of the private sector.  
In the development of our national framework, we have identified the gaps and highlighted the strengths of the services. 
We have also together identified where we need to move and move fast with the concerted and collaborative effort of all partners.  The approach we are using is both holistic and multi-sectoral.  This is the best approach.
We have decided to give priority to early childhood programmes and to sustain such programmes, we are strengthening our public and private partnership in order to take innovative and decisive actions in mobilising diverse financing sources.
We are doing this with the realisation that investing in early childhood programmes will help to close the achievement gap, so that each and every child will be ready for school.
We know that each Seychelles rupee we invest will produce huge dividends, with improved learning outcomes, reduced social and economic disadvantages and with potential to create a stronger knowledge based society, which is the vision of our country.
As a government, we acknowledge the fact that when we are raising a child, all aspects of their life are important and we recognise that our parents are the first educators and care givers of young children.
In our ongoing effort, to ensure that every child’s right to quality and affordable care and education is guaranteed, we will review and strengthen the important role that they play in enhancing their children’s socialisation, adaptation and progress through the early childhood care and education programmes.
Their collaboration and partnership cannot be underestimated because we can develop very good programmes but they will not bring forth the desired outcomes, if what young children learn and experience in educational institutions are not consolidated and supported in the home and out of school environments or if they cannot access the programmes because of their family’s financial difficulties.
We will never achieve equity in our services if parents who need the support to send their children to day care centres and pre-schools are not assisted or they are not made to see the importance of such programmes.
While we aspire for the child to be ready for school, we also want the school to be ready for the child who walks through its doors. 
In this respect, we have spared no efforts and we will continue to build infrastructure, provide developmentally-appropriate curricula and educational resources and we will facilitate collaboration between ministries, private organisations and the civil society to provide the most conducive environments that will ensure that our young children grow up and receive the proper care and education that will guarantee a brighter future. 
We will be putting a lot of focus on empowering our early childhood teachers and care givers because we realise that a sensitive,   responsive and well trained staff at this level is one of the strongest predictors of high quality early learning programmes.
During this conference, we will engage in dynamic and far reaching reflection and discussion on the importance of effective ECCE programmes and make valuable contribution towards our draft National Policy Framework so that together we can chart the way forward.
We will be assisted in our thinking and deliberating process, by presentations from 2 notable early childhood experts from 2 different parts of the world, Dr. Marope hailing from UNESCO with an overall global outlook, while Dr. Kagan has a strong American perspective but with vast experience in developing countries of Asia and Africa and Latin America.
As a nation, full of determination, we are prepared together to brave all challenges and bridge the gaps as we continue on our road to success.
As is evident today, we are prepared to learn from the masters and adopt good practices in our effort to reach international standards.
It is my firm conviction that with a dynamic and forward thinking leadership, who strongly believes in children as the future and treasure of Seychelles, our small island developing state will become a leader in rights-based, holistic and integrated early childhood care and education in the region and/why not in the world?
Avan ki mon terminen, mon ti a kontan dir en pti mo nou bann zanfan ki la avek nou tanto.  Zanfan koman sa va?  In fer mwan en gran plezir e mon’n touse par zot zoli performans.  Lazwa lo zot figir i donn nou bokou lespwar pour zot lavenir.  Nou kontan zot e promet ki nou pou fer tou pour fer zot rev ek zot bann swe vin vre. (Annou donn zot en gro lanmen).
To conclude, it is my wish that everybody participating in this conference for the benefit of our children, those who will be making valuable contributions, those who will be sharing their experience, expertise and good practices will come out of it, each a winner. 
This will ensure that the collaborative actions we will engage in later will turn our children, our parents and our communities into winners.  Thus, we will be winning for Seychelles.
It is now my great pleasure to declare the first National Early Childhood Care and Education Conference officially open.

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