Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
Robert Fuderich, UNICEF representative to Jamaica, warns that if the Government fails to invest in early childhood development (ECD), it will not only be costly, but have devastating consequences for the country's future.
Speaking at last Thursday's Rotary Club luncheon at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel, New Kingston, Fuderich stressed the importance of ECD.
"I hope that ECD becomes a key priority of the Government of Jamaica, with not only adequate budget allocations to education, but to improve nutrition and basic health care for young children and pregnant mothers," urged Fuderich.
He stressed the need for Government to protect children from violence and neglect; to care for young children in state institutions; and the need for the extension of PATH benefits to ECD. He added that developing economic and parenting support systems was critical.
He said without this investment in the early years, it would become difficult, if not impossible, to compensate for this lack later in the life of a child.
Fuderich further warned that while a screening and referral system for children is costly, failure to implement it would result in an inefficient education system, which would be more costly to society.
The UNICEF representative added that ECD investments yield socially, well-adjusted and productive adults who contribute to a country's economic growth and help break the intergenerational cycle of poverty.
He said a study showed that children who participated in high-quality ECD programmes tend to have higher graduation rates, higher levels of schooling attainment, as well as experience less child abuse and neglect.
He said with the investment, mothers have fewer additional births, have lower alcohol and other drug abuse and are less likely to use welfare programmes.