Nov 07, Colombo: Sri Lanka's Speaker of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya today emphasized the need to focus special attention on early childhood development and accordingly formulate policies and allocate funds for projects exclusively for the development of children.
Addressing a parliamentary forum for early childhood development (ECD) today, the Speaker further said it is the prime duty not only as representatives of the Government but, very importantly as duty-bound parents and citizens, to make a safer and better tomorrow for the children of the country.
The "Parliamentary Forum on Early Childhood Development" was held under the patronage of Speaker Karu Jayasuriya on Tuesday in the Parliament for all Members of Parliament with the collaboration of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
The Speaker noted that the parliament, as representatives of the people, formulate policies for the development of the country including so many projects exclusively for the children. "Yet, early childhood development is a subject on which we have to focus our special attention," he said.
Disclosing interesting facts about Early Childhood Development (ECD), which refers to the physical, cognitive, linguistic and socio-emotional development of a child from the prenatal stage up to age eight, the Speaker said the early years of life are a window of opportunity to lay a strong foundation for a child's life.
"The ECD happens in a variety of settings such as homes, schools, health facilities, community-based centers and also involves a wide range of activities from child care to nutrition to parent education. Do you know that 85% of the human brain develops by age 5? It is more difficult to improve cognitive development later. 50% of a child's cognitive capacity is influenced by his environment and as responsible adults we have to create that environment for the children."
"So, these Proper health, nutrition and early stimulation play a critical role for brain development and child well-being. Without access to quality ECD poor children often fall behind their more advantaged peers before they even begin school. Supporting early childhood development improves equity improving the health, nutrition and education outcomes of children. Children who participate in quality ECD programs are well prepared to learn when they begin school and less likely to repeat grades or drop-out of school," Jayasuriya said.
He noted that throughout the history all governments in Sri Lanka have upheld the concept of providing free education and free health facilities to people of the country and as a result, Sri Lanka's indicators in education and health sectors are at higher levels when compared with other countries in South Asia.
However, this achievement alone is not adequate when planning to create a better life for each child, he stressed.
"We should allocate more funds for early childhood development in the budget process in order to harness maximum benefits for the future generations."
He said the government has readily identified the need to introduce good governance and best practices in to the parliamentary system. As a result, the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) has recognized the Parliament of Sri Lanka as a role model for other countries.
The government was able to strengthen the Committee system through the establishment of the Sectoral Oversight Committees and accordingly, the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender was established with the Chairmanship of the Dr. Thusitha Wijemanne and the Committee is functioning with a tremendous progress, the Speaker said.
The Parliamentary Caucus for Children was launched in November 2014, under the Chairmanship of State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle to mark the 25th anniversary celebrations of convention on the rights of the child (CRC), which was ratified by Sri Lanka in 1991. Since then it has been playing a vital role with the objective of contributing to the development of the full potential of every child without discrimination and as equals.
The Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus in Parliament of Sri Lanka is also moving ahead under the patronage of Minister of Women and Child Affairs Chandrani Bandara contributing a great deal to uplift the lives of women and children of Sri Lanka, the Speaker remarked.
He expressed congratulations to the Members of the Caucus and the SOC on women & Gender for their tireless efforts made to make realize the quota of 25% women representation in Local Government Authorities elections.
"I am quite happy to note that the Chairs of the Children’s Caucus, Women’s Caucus, and the Sectoral Oversight Committee on Women and Gender have joined hands to work towards the betterment of the children of this country. I believe that together, their strong desire will be successful in allocating resources for early childhood development from national budgets, establish strong policy directions, and debate, shape and enforce laws that protect children," the Speaker Jayasuriya said.
He also thanked the UNICEF Sri Lanka for organizing the valuable program with the participation of a world-renowned expert on Early Childhood Development, Dr. Michael Samson.