THE EDITOR: Even though there is a great deal of evidence that spending a long period of time in front of a screen can have an impact on youngsters, our country’s preschools and daycares 22 months later remain fully closed.
Early childhood, defined as the years between birth and the age of six, has been medically established to be the most crucial phase in a child's development and learning trajectory. According to experts in neurobiology and cognitive development, 90 per cent of brain growth happens during the first six years of life.
Emotional and physical health, social skills and cognitive-linguistic capacities that emerge in the early years are all crucial requirements for success in school and subsequently in the workplace and community, according to Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child. "Children need sensitive care during the vital early years," according to UNICEF.
While every educational institution in TT shuttered in March 2020 and most relocated online to enable continued learning during the pandemic, hundreds of children aged zero to five years have been denied access to early childhood care and learning as development centres remain closed.
School closures, according to UNICEF, can have devastating consequences for children. Children are exposed to a variety of dangers when schools are closed. The longer schools are closed, the more children lose a significant amount of learning, which has long-term consequences, including future income and health. Depending on their age, gender, disability and socioeconomic situation, they may be discriminated against.
While some preschools across the country moved to an online format to provide uninterrupted learning, some parents expressed concerns about the increase in the amount of time young children would spend in front of a screen and its impact, and did not enrol their children in an online programme for the remainder of 2020 and all through 2021, now moving in to 2022.
We know based on the evidence that spending extended periods of time in front of a screen can have a negative influence on children. However the impact of a zero learning year on a child's long-term development is more damaging and can have a multiplier effect as the child grows older.
Education has the power to change people's lives. "One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen may change the world," UN Messenger of Peace Malala Yousafzai once stated. Education, as Nelson Mandela correctly stated, is "the most potent weapon that you can employ to alter the world."
I have been teacher/principal for many years. I see education as the great tool for fighting poverty. To eliminate inequities and enhance health, we need education. We require education.
How could we celebrate International Education Day (yesterday) as a country when our leaders have taken away this right from our future generation.