Digital platform to financially assist parents and childcare providers launched

The Child care Benefits Information System Seychelles (CcBiSS) provides an online platform which supports parents, guardians, and childcare providers in registering for financial assistance and offers timely updates and confirmations on registrations and bills. This was announced at a regional workshop hosted by IECD last night at the Savoy Hotel.

The Institute of Early Childhood Development (IECD), a UNESCO Category 2 Institute, hosted the induction of their threeday workshop last night at the Savoy Hotel. This event brought together representatives from Southern and Eastern Africa to discuss the progress towards the transformative goals outlined in the Tashkent Declaration on Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE).

Key participants included Mrs. Shirley Choppy, the CEO of IECD; Mr. Borhene Chakroun, the Director Division for Policies and Lifelong Learning Systems from UNESCO through video representation; Mr. Benjamin Choppy, the Principal Secretary at the Department of Information Communications Technology; Dr. Justin Valentin, the Minister for Education; and Mr. Joseph Samy, a renowned artist.

Group photo with key members present at the event last night

The event featured speeches by key figures such as CEO Choppy, Minister Valentin, Mr. Chakroun, and Mr. Choppy. Also included were cultural performances and the unveiling of the new online system for child care services, capped by its official launch. Additionally, the IECD introduced a new advocacy initiative, followed by the formal opening of the regional workshop and the awarding of Mr. Sammy for his engagement with the institution. Mrs. Choppy expressed deep honour in organising the regional workshop, emphasising its significance as the first and only UNESCO Category 2 Institute for Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) in the world. She acknowledged the challenges they face in sustaining a resilient and comprehensive ECCE system but highlighted their determination to share best practices and learn from others in the African region.

She noted that the workshop symbolises their commitment to transcending borders and fostering meaningful change in early childhood development. She proudly mentioned the African Union’s designation of 2024 as the Year of Education for Africa, aligning with the goal of accelerating progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4). This goal, specifically SDG4.2, focuses on ensuring quality early childhood education by 2030, which aligns with their shared vision and strategic priorities.

Mrs. Choppy emphasised the important role of education in African development and poverty reduction. She stressed that empowering children through education can create a brighter future for communities and the continent. By prioritising early childhood development, they aim to work collaboratively towards this vision. She celebrated the power of collaboration and knowledge sharing in achieving these goals and called on participants for their support, commitment, and active participation.

Mrs. Choppy invited attendees to visit the showrooms, highlighting the rich culture and strong commitment to ECCE, and expressed gratitude to the UNESCO Secretariat and regional officers for their continued support. Following suit, she thanked the representatives from 18 African countries for joining the workshop, looking forward to a productive and enriching experience as they embrace their new international mandate.

Mr. Chakroun then digitally took the floor from Paris. He expressed pleasure in addressing the participants of the regional workshop focused on the Tashkent Declaration and Commitment to Action for transforming early childhood education and care in Southern and Eastern Africa. He emphasised that learning begins at birth and highlighted the critical importance of the early years in a child’s development.

He noted that the period from birth to eight years old is a crucial window for education and growth, laying the foundation for lifelong learning and shaping an individual’s future. He referred to the 2022 World Conference on Early Childhood Education and Care in Tashkent, where the global community reaffirmed the fundamental rights and commitments to early childhood education through the Tashkent Declaration. Among the commitments, member states pledged to allocate at least 10% of their total education spending to preprimary education.

Despite these commitments, Mr. Chakroun pointed out three major challenges in early childhood education. First, a significant proportion of children are not achieving minimum proficiency levels, with an estimated 37% of the world’s children, or over 300 million, projected to fall short in reading by 2030. This situation was termed an “education catastrophe” by the UN SecretaryGeneral, highlighting the crises of equity and relevance in education.

Second, he highlighted the need to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4.2 by 2030, which aims to ensure access to quality early childhood development and preprimary education for all children. This requires enrolling more than 1.4 million children in early childhood education annually, a target that calls for urgent action to bridge the gap between aspirations and realities on the ground. Third, he reiterated the shared importance of early childhood education, citing research that shows its positive impact on educational outcomes, economic and social wellbeing, and overall happiness.

Mr. Chakroun stressed the necessity of a wholechild approach, which includes nurturing children’s social and emotional wellbeing, fostering a sense of belonging and identity, and empowering them to become active participants in their communities. This approach is essential for sustainable development and a more equitable society.

Furthermore, he explained the significance of the Categorical Centre in Eastern Africa, which serves as a hub for knowledge sharing, policy learning, and capacity building. He thanked the government of Seychelles for hosting the centre, the leadership of the Institute for Early Childhood, and the CEO, for their support and engagement. He also expressed gratitude to UNESCO colleagues in Nairobi and the headquarters for their collaborative efforts.

Mr. Choppy then took to the stage to officially launch the new website. He discussed the implementation of the Child care Benefits Information System Seychelles (CcBiSS) project in collaboration with DICT. He highlighted that this initiative aligns with the Tashkent Declaration’s call for increased use of ICT in ECCE.He explained that the government already administers a successful scheme providing financial support to parents using childcare services. Currently, the administration of this scheme, from registering parents and children to managing payments to service providers, is done manually, which involves significant logistical coordination and timeconsuming tasks.

CcBiSS addresses these challenges by providing an online platform accessible via the Internet and compatible with a variety of devices, from desktops to smartphones. The system supports parents, guardians, and childcare providers in registering for financial assistance and offers timely updates and confirmations on registrations and bills. Users can fill out essential documents online, such as parental confirmation forms, transfer forms, and forms for newly registered childcare providers. Additionally, CcBiSS generates detailed reports to aid informed decisionmaking for the scheme’s administration.

In essence, it streamlines and enhances the efficiency of the scheme’s administration. Mr. Choppy noted that out of 2,300 parents using the scheme, approximately 1,480, or 64%, have already registered on the CcBiSS platform. He expressed optimism about the system’s future, mentioning that the upcoming month would mark the firsttime payments under the scheme would be administered through the platform. The implementation will involve close monitoring by the ICD and the Treasury in the Department of Finance to ensure smooth operation.

Mr. Choppy also highlighted that CcBiSS is a locally developed product, built by Space 95, a local IT company. He congratulated Space 95 for successfully delivering the solution and expressed anticipation for ongoing collaboration and support for the system. He reflected on the valuable lessons learned through this project and extended heartfelt gratitude to all partners and stakeholders involved in making the project a reality.

Officially opening the workshop, Minister Valentin highlighted the shared belief among participants in the benefits of ECCE, underscoring that this conviction brought them together to seek better solutions and sustainable development in their respective African countries. He noted that many attendees had engaged in highlevel discussions, policymaking, and service provision in the ECCE sector, making them all stakeholders in this field. This workshop was seen as an opportunity to reflect on planned actions, share achievements, address challenges, and seek collaboration for better progress and success, ensuring that all young children can reach their full potential.

Minister Valentin then reviewed the global recognition of the value of early childhood development over the past 22 years. He recalled significant international events, starting with the 2000 Dakar Framework for Action, which committed governments to achieving quality basic education for all by 2015, with a focus on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. He mentioned the 2010 World Conference on ECCE in Moscow, where leaders reaffirmed commitments and identified areas where progress was needed.

In 2015, the Education 2030 Framework for Action was adopted in Incheon, Korea, emphasising the role of education in human development and committing to providing quality early childhood development and preprimary education for all children by 2030. The most recent significant event was the 2022 World Conference on ECCE in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, which reaffirmed the right of every child to quality early childhood care and education, identified persistent challenges, and called for renewed action in areas such as policy development, multistakeholder partnerships, and increased investment.

He highlighted that despite considerable progress, many young children, particularly in disadvantaged countries, still face poor development outcomes due to factors like poverty, limited access to education, political instability, pandemics, and climate change. These conditions pose significant threats to the wellbeing of young children and create disparities in development, making it difficult for affected countries to meet their commitments.

Minister Valentin highlighted the need to transform early childhood care and education to achieve equitable and quality outcomes, as stipulated in SDG 4.2 and reiterated in the Tashkent Declaration. He called for doubling efforts and accelerating progress to meet commitments, addressing political, financial, and internet barriers, and engaging in collective strategizing. He noted that Seychelles had achieved transformation in ECCE through strong political commitment, strategic direction, technical and institutional leadership, policy dialogue, and multisectoral collaboration.

He expressed confidence that participants would have ample time to engage with the Seychelles model of ECCE, which had led to significant achievements and the Institute of Early Childhood Development becoming a UNESCO Category 2 Centre. He applauded the work of the IECD team and their partners for their remarkable achievements and expressed pride in Seychelles’ ability to lead advancements in early childhood education beyond national borders.Digital platform to financially assist parents and childcare providers launchedContinued from page 1One of the operators says that La Digue is prejudiced when compared to Mahé and Praslin. “The government needs to realise that we’re also part of Seychelles and we also need to do business,” he emphasises.

Courtesy: A. Vandervalk (Todayinseychelles.com)