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Last Sunday, November 20th, World Children’s Day was observed by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) under the theme“Inclusion, for every child.”
The Opposition, A Partnership for National Unity and Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) said, even as they joined with the world to celebrate the event, the opportunity is taken to publish for public comment a policy brief of our initial ideas on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE). At the press conference on Tuesday, Hazel Pyle-Lewis, shared that the Opposition in designing its ECCE policy could not agree more with the statement from a UN official that, “To have strong healthy children, you need strong healthy families. To have strong healthy families, you need strong healthy parents.”
The proposed policy follows-
Our policy confronts the fact that Guyana ranks poorly on several critical measures of infant/childhood and maternal health and well-being. These include maternal mortality, low birth weight, under-five mortality, child poverty, under-five malnutrition and stunting, and female mental health.
Guyana also ranks below par in female participation in the workforce, paid maternity or parental leave, formalization of care-giver services, and parent-friendly workplaces.
Our ECCE policy therefore is designed to transform Guyana into one of the best countries to be a mother and a child, and to raise a family. We will guarantee that all our children get a sound HEAD START in life while, at the same time, EMPOWERING WOMEN by providing them greater opportunities and choices. Our research has shown that well-developed ECCE programs in other countries have allowed women to join the workforce in greater numbers and to further their careers.
In our policy, we will use our oil wealth to fund four plans of action.
FIRST, we will provide top-quality health care and wellbeing support for mothers and children throughout pregnancy and the early years of the child. We intend to ratchet up our health services in terms of resources, coverage, quality, and effectiveness. To guide our efforts at optimizing this aspect of our policy, we will first conduct a needs assessment survey.
SECOND, we will upgrade the current paid 13-week maternity leave into a Paid Parental Leave Scheme that is longer, more generous, and allows both parents to participate. We will bring Guyana in line with many of the advanced countries in granting 6-12 months of paid parental leave, arranged to include a role for the father. This will be a genuine focus on the role of men in the development of the family.
THIRD, we will establish country-wide free and high-quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) facilities. In operational terms, our plan will ensure that (a) adequate and properly-regulated day care facilities will be available to fulfil demand—through a mix of state-owned facilities, private licensed providers, and home-based kinship services; (b) the State stands most or all of the cost for ECCE services, and (c) caregivers are adequately trained and compensated.
It is important to note here that when in government, the Coalition trained and employed many Early Childhood educators to work in the seven (7) Early Childhood Education Centers that were built. This is clear evidence that we believe in early childhood development and the positive impact it has on society.
FOURTH, we will incentivize both private and public sector workplaces to accommodate pregnant mothers and those with young children by enhancing workplace flexibility and support for both parents. Measures would include allowing for part-time or unconventional work hours; and leveraging technology (such as working from home).
Our ECCE policy will cater for families in exceptional circumstances, such as those with children with special needs, and for mothers who are self-employed and home-employed. This must be rooted in law to end the PPP’s arbitrary approach of removing people from social assistance.
The Opposition invites persons to refer to its Facebook page for more on the policy brief and to share their comment.