NIA CHARLESTOWN (September 26, 2013) — Education officials on Nevis were told that the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) office based in Barbados, would ensure that Nevis had a robust education sector plan and strategy document effectively responding to the priorities of the island.
Word of this came from Chief of Education at the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) office based in Barbados Dr. Wycliffe Otieno. He was at the time on a brief, but significant, visit with education officials on Nevis on September 25, 2013 accompanied by Regional Education Advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean Mr. Francisco Benavides and Early Childhood Specialist for UNICEF in the Eastern Caribbean Ms. Shelly-Ann Harper.
“Principally we have talked about early childhood care and development and the Child Friendly Schools but the third area in which we are working to support countries is with the education development sector plans.
“I was briefed this morning that the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is now planning to transform the White Paper into a real policy document and this is one of the areas where we have offered our support and we are going to help as much as we can to ensure that you have a robust education sector plan and strategy document that effectively responds to the priorities of this beautiful island,” he said.
Dr. Otieno further explained that the visit to Nevis was for the organisation to continue to get a better understanding of what the situation was with regard to early childhood education as UNICEF continued to support the implementation of the Child Friendly Schools programme.
He said he had been to Nevis in 2012 therefore the 2013 visit would serve as a follow up.
“Many things have been happening and one of the things we have been doing is supporting the implementation of the Child Friendly Schools programme. So from my visit last time and coming here we want to see what progress are we making on this particular front, what new challenges are we having that we might need to respond to, what are the new innovations, the new initiatives that have been started by the Government of Nevis to ensure that you respond to the needs of the people and the children.
“One of the most interesting things that we have been told is this Adult Education programme, I was actually quite intrigued and I think this is one of the first things I have learned of its kind in any of the countries I have visited and we do want to appreciate the Government and the Ministry for spearheading his,” he said.
Dr. Otieno noted that the other reason for the visit was to introduce the Regional Education Specialist who was visiting for the first time.
“The second purpose is to come and to introduce our regional education specialist who is making his first visit here. The regional education is based in Panama and they do support the Barbados office significantly both in terms of technical capacity and financial resources for us to be able to respond to the needs of children in this particular region.
“It is going to give my colleague Mr. Benavides a very good opportunity to get a firsthand experience of those particular issues and ideas for which they are supporting at the Regional office to be able to effectively respond and shall I say, that in essence, it is a monitoring visit that we get to understand where are things and what is the appropriate response of UNICEF at this particular time to the very specific issues that we are addressing,” he said.
Ms. Harper gave her perspective on the visit and states that Early Childhood Education remained a key priority for UNICEF as well as the St. Kitts and Nevis Governments
“I have been doing a lot of work with both territories looking at access to early childhood education; looking at the quality of the service that we are giving and looking at making the programmes certainly more interactive and more crucial for the way how young children learn; looking at how do we look at the vulnerable populations making sure that we do give target attention to those children in the vulnerable communities.
“So basically we are here to continue that relationship that we have already built and to see how we can continue to work closely together,” she said.
Meantime, Education Officer with responsibility for Early Childhood Mrs. Florence Smithen thanked UNICEF for its continued assistance to Early Childhood Education on Nevis which had helped in the development of the island’s young people.
“I am proud to be sitting here with members from UNICEF because since my tenure 17 years ago I have been introduced to UNICEF and they have been supporting us in various ways in our policies. We have developed our policies; we have developed our programmes; we have provided in-service training for our teachers and so on and the list goes on and I am thanking them very much in that capacity for the help that they have given us over the years.
“We continue to see gains in early childhood. We have seen our children develop to be productive citizens. I have followed them over the years and I have seen those children who have entered into Early Childhood, who have entered into a nursery or a pre school and have gotten good stimulation early have developed into well-rounded citizens. So I thank them very much for that,” she said.