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International Children’s Day in Uzbekistan: For Every Child, Good Parenting
The World Conference for the Well-being of Children in Geneva, Switzerland, proclaimed 1 June to be the International Children's Day in 1925. Uzbekistan marks the day every year to draw public attention to children's issues.
UNICEF joins the country in celebrating the occasion. We asked Sascha Graumann, Representative, UNICEF in Uzbekistan to share his thoughts on the good parenting for early childhood development.
- UNICEF is very active in engaging with governments, business houses and the general public around the importance of investing in early childhood development for every child. On this special day, our readers would like to gain a better understanding about why the early moments matter.
- The first three years of a child’s life are fundamentally the most important. These are the foundation years that shape children’s future health, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life in general.
According to a global study published in Lancet, a baby’s brain cells can form 1,000 new connections every second. Mothers and fathers have a unique opportunity to shape their children’s brain development in the earliest years of life, especially in the first 1,000 days. These connections in the brain are created more effectively when parents interact with their babies in simple ways such as comforting, reading, hugging, talking and singing.
According to the same study, there is a high price to pay when children do not develop the skills in early childhood that they need to learn and earn later in life. Poor early childhood development can cost individuals up to a quarter of their salaries and it can cost national governments up to twice what it invests in health.
- Most families provide care to their young children, but many do not because of stresses and conditions that interfere with their ability to parent. What could be done, in your view, to improve the situation?
- Today’s children will drive growth and development in the societies of tomorrow. An estimated 250 million children or 43% of all children below the age of 5 years in low-income and middle-income countries are at risk of falling short of their potential.
Helping these children reach that potential by investing in early childhood development—and developing their physical, cognitive, emotional, and social capacities—will benefit not only them but also all of us.
Failing to make such investments will have profound implications for children, their families, and their societies, exacerbating inequalities and deepening societal divisions. Families can be supported through the adoption of national policies, affordable quality childcare, and provision of good pre-school education services.
Programmes that focus on nutrition, play, stimulation, positive discipline and responsive care can provide support for mothers and fathers as they nurture and care for their children.
- One of the key elements of the early childhood development is pre-school education. Can you share your insights on this issue?
- Studies in developing countries show that early childhood education leads to higher levels of primary school enrolment and educational performance, which in turn positively affect employment opportunities later in life.
On the contrary, children who start school late and lack the necessary skills to be able to learn constructively are more likely to fall behind or drop out completely, often perpetuating a cycle of poverty. Access to pre-school education is one of the core objectives in our work.
In Uzbekistan, only 26.5 per cent of children at the age of 2-7 years attended preschool education institutions in 2015, as per the official data. This means that the majority of children in this age group are deprived of the learning opportunities, and are not ready for school.
There are two parts to this challenge: on one hand, the issue is about availability of pre-school services in the country. On the other hand, it is also about mind-sets of parents who do not know or believe that pre-school education is important.
For some, the cost of pre-school education is a challenge. Therefore UNICEF is working with the Government to ensure that a 15 per cent quota of free seats in pre-schools is reserved for families from economically weaker layers of population.
We are pleased to see that with the current reforms, there is a shift in designing a policy for making one year pre-school education mandatory for children. We will continue our work with the Government in this area.
- Today, we are also talking about the role of a man in child’s upbringing. Could you share your views on the issue?
- Many studies affirm that an involved father can play a crucial role particularly in the cognitive, behavioral and general health and well-being of a child. Studies of men and their interaction with children, their caring for, playing with, disciplining, and talking to children reveal that men are not only capable of nurturing children, but they do it in ways which are distinctly different from women.
In play, an activity often associated with fathers, men tend to be more physical and reciprocal as playmates than are women. Women tend to use more verbal interaction and direction in their play with children. Men often tend to structure play and interaction with children around a task, game, or project. Women tend to structure play and interaction around an idea or make-believe situation.
The differences in such approaches seem to have a beneficial effect on children. Two parents who interact with their children uniquely and, often, in contrasting ways, offers variety in the interactive experiences for these children and also fosters a capacity for these children to attach to each parent as a separate individual with distinct relational styles.
Studies also show that if the child’s father is supportive and involved, he can contribute greatly to the child’s cognitive, language, and social development, as well as academic achievement, sense of well-being and high self-esteem.
Children who are well-bonded with fathers tend to have less behavioral problems, and are somewhat protected against alcohol and drug abuse. The researchers at the University of Oxford also report that boys who have involved fathers are less likely to get in trouble with the law, as they get older.