3rd Biennial Early Childhood Conference to focus on mental health & virtual learning

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Chief Education Officer Marcel Hutson

The 3rd Biennial Early Childhood Conference opened today under the theme, “Investing in quality early childhood education: focusing on child mental health and virtual learning.”

The conference is being hosted by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Guyana – Jamaica Friendship Association, New York, Inc. According to the Director of the National Centre for Educational Resource Development (NCERD), Mrs. Quenita Walrond-Lewis, the conference will encourage participants to become keener observers of children in this generation who are now learning how to express themselves in the virtual modality through which many of us have become most accustomed.

Chief Education Officer, Dr. Marcel Hutson said that the conference is very significant and that the theme is most appropriate at this particular juncture in the country’s history as we have been experiencing the effects of COVID-19 and are now in the process of reshaping how education is delivered.

He said that the power of Early Childhood Education is immense and has many benefits. “We all know about our children learning very early to develop social skills increasing their confidence levels and greater coordination, creativity as they grow and develop.”

He said that Early Childhood Education must be delivered in a holistic fashion since children at that age absorb everything they are taught. Dr. Hutson added that it is not the school alone that has to make changes but that there is a role for the parent or guardian and members of the community who have a genuine interest in the development of children.

Dr. Hutson said that he is happy parents will be a part of the conference since education begins at the level of the family and therefore it is of fundamental importance what the family does in terms of education delivery.

In addition to parents, participants in the conference include Nursery Field Officers, Headteachers, final year students of the Cyril Potter College of Education, final year students of the University of Guyana and Child Care and Early Childhood Educators and Practitioners.

Today’s keynote address was delivered by Dr. Frank Denbow, President of the Guyana – Jamaica Friendship Association whose presentation focused on “Reflections on COVID-19: Common Sense Approach”.

He spoke of the basic concepts related to COVID-19 and how we can mitigate the effects and protect ourselves and communities so that together, work can continue to improve the delivery of education. Dr. Denbow said that he recognizes that there is a tremendous amount of misinformation in the public regarding COVID-19 whether it is on social media, radio, television or in the newspapers. “So my first caution to everyone is to be careful where you obtain your information from,” he noted.

He said that thankfully, scientists and researchers have been able to come up with multiple vaccines and that their effectiveness is clear for all to see. He said that Guyana has done well to ensure vaccines are available for the entire population since they have proven to mitigate serious illness and prevent death.

Meanwhile, Assistant Chief Education Officer (Nursery), Mr. Devendre Persaud said that among the objectives of the conference is to introduce Article 31 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. He added that the conference also seeks to provide strategies for successful virtual/distance learning for children, equip participants to support child mental health, provide parents with practices to raise healthy children and provide a virtual environment for early childhood education and special education needs.

The conference which opened today will conclude tomorrow, March 16, 2022. Participants will benefit from presentations and break-out sessions facilitated by Dr. Claudia Williams, Dr. Gloria Thompson, Dr. Carol Darcy, Dr. Carmen Bovell and Dr. Lidon Lashley.