Regional Workshop – Keynote and Opening Address by Minister Valentin

Distinguished Guests
Workshop Delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

1.0 Greetings & Introduction

It is my utmost pleasure to welcome you all to this Regional Workshop on Early Childhood Care and Education, hosted by the Institute of Early Childhood Development – Category 2 Institute under the auspices of UNESCO, in collaboration with UNESCO. Allow me to convey my warmest and special welcome to our shores to the regional and international delegates and partners who have joined us for this memorable occasion.

It is said that early childhood care and education remains one of the strongest investments we can make to the long term success of our children and the long term economic strength of our country.

This statement is true for every one of us gathered here today. If we did not have this conviction, this shared belief, we would not be here in search of better solutions and more sustainable development for the early childhood care and education agenda in our respective countries on the African continent. We have all followed the evolution, the ongoing development journey as well as recognised the benefits of the ECCE system globally. Many of us have engaged in high level discussions, been proponents of its merits, have participated in decision making processes on policies, legislations, programmes and service provisions.

In short, we are all stakeholders in early childhood care and education and this regional workshop will be yet another platform where we will together reflect on planned actions, share achievements, table challenges and seek support of collaborators and partners to better shape our progress and success where all young children without exception can enjoy the opportunity to be nurtured, to grow, develop and reach their full potential. 

2.0 Historical Perspective & International Declarations on ECCE

Ladies and gentlemen, in order to fully appreciate the recognition given globally to the  intrinsic value of early childhood development  and its importance as  an indispensable foundation for lifelong learning, let us  take a step back and review some  important decisions taken and commitments to actions made in the last 22 years. Let us dwell on 4 major international events hosted during this period of time, where world leaders have convened to record achievements made and identify impediments to progress in early childhood development.

All declarations made recognised the importance of ECCE as an undeniable enabler of young children’s holistic development and wellbeing. All commitments and all calls for action were made in the spirit of advancing the agenda for improvement and for a move towards quality.

If we start at the dawn of the present century, the 2000 Dakar Framework for Action committed governments to achieve quality basic education for all by 2015 or earlier and made an international call for expansion and improvement in ECCE focussing on the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children. At the first World Conference on ECCE held in Moscow in 2010, world leaders while noting the achievements recorded and progress made so far, reaffirmed their commitments endorsed in previous events, especially in critical areas where progress had been slow and where countries were lagging behind due to militating or destabilising factors.

Five years later in Incheon, Korea, the Education 2030 Framework for Action for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals recognised the important role of education as a main driver of human development and for Goal 4 .2, a commitment was made for the provision for access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education for all young children so that they are ready for primary education.

At the second World ECCE Conference held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, less than two years ago, the right of every young child to quality early childhood development care and education was reaffirmed. There was further stock taking made of achievements and prospects. Some persistent challenges identified were mainly in line with fragmented policies, poor coordination among ECCE providers and lack of funding to ensure quality in programme and service delivery.

Where inadequate progress has been recorded in achieving commitments endorsed in previous conferences, there was a renewed call for action in areas needing improvement and strengthening such as the development of legal frameworks, more inclusive policies and programmes, multi stakeholder partnerships, building of effective and accountable systems with emphasis on increased investments and financial assistance as well as  the mobilisation of technical support at both regional and international levels. 

In summary, the picture we have is that, while much has been achieved and considerable progress recorded in the field, with key indicators of child development outcomes on the rise across the world, many young children in some countries are still at risk of poor or inadequate development outcomes. These may have been exacerbated by or are directly impacted by both national and global challenges such as poverty and socio- economic deprivations, limited access to education, political instability due to conflicts and crises, health pandemics and climate change.

Where these conditions exist, there are considerable threats to the wellbeing of young children as they limit ECCE provisions and the quality of the nurturing care and fundamental early learning causing grave disparities and inequalities in their development. As a result the countries affected lag behind in their progress and find it extremely difficult to meet their commitments due to these destabilising factors.

3.0 Transformation of ECCE in Seychelles

Ladies and gentlemen, if we are to transform early childhood care and education in order to achieve equitable and quality early childhood development and access to pre- primary education for both genders as stipulated in SDG 4 Target 2 and reiterated in the Tashkent Declaration and Commitments to Action, there is a need to double our efforts and accelerate progress towards meeting our commitments. If we are here in Seychelles today, it is to study the situation, address political, financial and institutional barriers and engage in collective strategizing to chart the way forward.

In Seychelles, the transformation in early childhood care and education has been made possible through strong political commitment, strategic direction at high level, progressive, technical and institutional leadership and governance, heightened policy dialogue and expanding monitoring and evaluation framework. The multi sectorial collaboration and institutionalisation of national action planning have greatly assisted the process.

As a result the country has recorded key achievements in legislative and policy actions with consolidation and expansion of early childhood provisions.

Momentum gathered after the country participated in the World ECCE Conference in Moscow. Seychelles was among the first member states to action on the commitments made through the development of an overarching policy document, ‘The Seychelles Framework for ECCE 2011’, which set our united vision and shared commitment for a winning start in life for all children in the country. It represented a multi sectorial and inter agency effort to sustain the gains we have made in the ECCE sector over the years and to continue to improve the quality of the system.

In line with the Moscow Framework for Action and Cooperation, the country adopted a broad and holistic approach to education and care for young children aged 0 to 8 years, with priority given to policy and programme review, expansion of access, provision of equitable service, setting of standards in service delivery, training and professional development for service providers, research and data collection, monitoring and evaluation as well investment and funding.

4.0 Seychelles IECD’s milestone achievements & raison d’être for the Regional Workshop

The establishment of the Institute of Early Childhood Development (IECD) in 2013, with the role to provide leadership and strategic direction, and coordinate the multi-sectoral approach, promote and advocate for ECCE, was an innovation which drove the early childhood care and education agenda nationally and shape its perspective at international level. The Institute was the main driving force behind the implementation of the priorities and strategies outlined in the national policy document and the tracing of progress to bring about the desired outcomes.

As a result of targeted actions and close monitoring, the last decade has been characterised by rapid changes and ground breaking developments leading to the Institute gaining global recognition. It was described by World Bank as the institutional anchor for ECCE, recognised by ADEA for its milestone progress and designated a Best Practice Hub for ECCE by International Bureau of Education, UNESCO in 2017. In 2022, it gained the much coveted status of Category 2 Centre for ECCE under the auspices of UNESCO, with a global status, responsible for knowledge production, capacity building, provision of technical service, standard setting and advocacy and information sharing in the field.

It was opportune that the review of the Seychelles Framework for ECCE 2023 coincided with the second World Conference in ECCE held in Tashkent, as presentations and discussions at this international event provided a global validation for our national policy. The pledges and commitments to action made by member states for transforming ECCE resonated with our national aspirations and the road map we have traced for the next 10 years in our new 2023  framework to engage in  the  continuous  quest for high quality ECCE through shared responsibility and accountability for the benefit of our young  children and our society. 

It is against this backdrop and in line with the principles and strategies outlined in the Tashkent Declaration and Commitment to Action that Seychelles UNESCO Category 2 Institute is hosting this first Regional Workshop, convening leaders and experts in the ECCE field from the Southern and Eastern African Community. The workshop will also be a follow up to the Tashkent+1 event which was organised by UNESCO in November in 2022 under the theme ‘Education Starts Early’, where the call to reaffirm the commitment to ECCE was made yet again for renewed effort to ensure progress towards actioning the commitments made in the realisation of the goals set, with special attention to SDG 4.2 which still remains a global challenge. 

5.0 Rallying support and cooperation towards attainment of SDG Goals

Ladies and gentlemen, reviewing progress barely one and a half-year after Tashkent 2022, clearly shows the urgency of the situation at international level and the inadequacy of progress recorded in achieving commitments made. It emphasizes the need for more frequent and closer monitoring and evaluation as member states implement their targeted actions. It also underlines UNESCO’s commitment to provide support to member states, especially those in most need, to plan and implement concrete actions in order to achieve SDG Target 4.2 as 2030 is fast approaching.

Through the sharing of achievements and progress, those needing more immediate support will be identified and provided with technical assistance as per their specific contexts, needs and challenges. There is a necessity to explore avenues for regional and international cooperation and collaboration in an effort to accelerate progress in achieving goals set. Mutual support and the sharing of country based good practices are pivotal in this process.

Despite the notable progress Seychelles has made in the improvement of maternal and child care indicators, the achievement of very high pre-primary enrolment rate; the introduction of pre-school readiness assessment and early stimulation programme for children aged 0 to 3, a robust framework on monitoring and evaluation, and multi-sectoral coordination, to name a few, as a country we also have a few existing challenges and emerging areas that we need to address. These include, long-term sustainable investments in ECCE in the context of growing competition amongst competing priorities nationally as a small country.

Nevertheless, a s a UNESCO Category 2 Institute for ECCE, we are committed to sharing the knowledge, expertise and experience gained and good practices in advancing the ECCE agenda nationally with other countries in the region and beyond. We firmly believe that a lot can be achieved in establishing cooperation and extending networking partnerships, through knowledge and skills transfer on best practice pillars and technical assistance and support, with a view to strengthening the holistic, comprehensive and quality ECCE services we provide to young children.

I firmly believe that working together, we will be able to address common issues and ensure further and tangible improvements in the ECCE systems on the continent.

6.0 Words of Gratitude and Thanks

Ladies and gentlemen, on behalf of the President of the Republic, Mr. Wavel Ramkalawan and together with the Chairperson of the Governing Board of the Category 2 Institute, Dr. Mmansetsa Marope and Chairman of IECD Local Board, Capt. David Savy, I would like to seize this great opportunity to extend our gratitude to UNESCO for recognising the significant reform and transformation process of ECCE in Seychelles and for designating the IECD as a Category 2 Institute under its auspices.

Our country is indeed grateful for the support its secretariat and the UNESCO Regional Office for the Eastern and Southern Africa have given to the IECD through this workshop to start the implementation of actions as part of its new international mandate and functions.

To conclude, allow me to express my sincere appreciation to all ECCE actors and partners at the local, regional and global levels, who are dedicated to the cause and striving tirelessly to ensure that all young children, without exception, enjoy the best quality of care and education while acknowledging that this will lead to a better nation and a better world.

I wish to convey my warmest wishes to the Category 2 Institute’s continued success in this important work ahead beyond Seychelles. I wish to heartily thank the CEO, Mrs. Shirley Choppy and her dedicated staff for putting this workshop together.

It is now my utmost pleasure to declare the First Edition of the Regional Workshop, officially open.

I wish the delegates fruitful deliberations and successful workshop, and an enjoyable time in our beautiful Seychelles. 

Thank you.