Chairman, Early Childhood Commission (ECC), Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, says that Jamaica has made significant strides in matters related to child development over the last 50 years.
The ECC Chairman was speaking on April 25 at the official launch of Child Month 2012 at the GraceKennedy Limited offices downtown Kingston. Activities will start in May and will be celebrated under the theme: ‘Jamaica 50: Let’s Celebrate Our Children’.
Citing some of the areas of successes, Ms. Samms-Vaughan mentioned a decline in fertility rate; a significant reduction in the number of teenage mothers; reduction in infant mortality rates; increase in immunization coverage; fall in malnutrition; and reduction in the number of children living in poverty.
She noted however that even with these achievements, there are other pressing issues, which need to be addressed with urgency. These include protection of children, providing stable family relationships, and improvement in the education standards from early childhood to the secondary level.
“We have not done well at all in protection rights, and we really don’t know how well we are doing in participation rights because we are not monitoring it at all. It is important for us to monitor it because children have important things to tell us. Legislation has been important, but it has not been sufficient to ensure our children’s well-being and it is absolutely critical that we understand this,” she said.
Professor Samms-Vaughan urged that for the next 50 years “let’s refocus our attention on truly celebrating our children, guided by the data we have and by the voices of our children. We should continue to pass relevant legislation but we must focus on prevention, development and support because legislation is after the fact”.
Senior Legal and Regulatory Counsel, LIME, Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith, encouraged persons to be supportive of children and their needs and wants.
“We need to be our brothers and sisters’ keepers because really, how can we celebrate our children if we are not loving and protecting them. Those of you, who have children, take the time out to appreciate their openness…for those of us, who don’t have children, let’s try to take the time out to give love and care to some children, who need someone to care for them,” she said.
Child Month, which seeks to promote the welfare of children, was first celebrated in May, 1953.
Some of the activities this year include: a National Church Service on Sunday, May 6, at the St. James Anglican Church, Annotto Bay, St. Mary; National Action Day on May 11; National Children Day, scheduled for May 18; and the awards ceremony for the poster and essay competitions on May 31.
By Chris Patterson, JIS Reporter