A child’s early growth takes place from the foetus to six years. Its future depends much on the care taken at this stage of life. ‘That is why proper care is needed for a child’s healthy and normal physical, mental, social and emotional growth. Just as an expectant mother should be given extra nutrition, her mental peace must be ensured too. Proper care, nutrition and education must also be ensured for a child at every state from birth.’
These observations were made by speakers at a roundtable on ‘Early child growth and care’, organized on Sunday by Prothom Alo with support from Unicef at the Prothom Alo’s Karwan Bazar office in the capital city.
During the discussion, state minister for women and children’s affairs Meher Afroze Chumki said, children are a huge resource in Bangladesh. They must not be neglected, but given due care. This responsibility cannot be left to the government alone. The government cannot single-handedly take care of such a huge number of children. She said that a child’s future depended much on the care provided to the mother. Care was needed from the foetal stage. The expectant mother required additional nutrition and mental peace. Attention must be paid so that the mother does not face any sort of oppression. Torture on a pregnant woman has a negative impact on the child.
Elaborating the government’s various measures for early child care, the state minister said, the government is thinking anew about daycare centres. A policy is being drawn up, necessitating licences to run daycare centres. Mothers will also be training in taking care of their children from birth to six years. The government is palling to create 36 thousand trainers in this regard.
The minister said, everyone is working in an uncoordinated manner in this regard. The government is now looking into how to bring everyone to one platform and work in coordination.
Director of Bangladesh Shishu Academy Anveer Liton said, a father must be involved in a child’s early care. The government and non-government organisations (NGOs) must collaborate in early child care initiatives. Volunteers must be prepared and booklets must be drawn up and distributed. Coordinated efforts under one umbrella would have t be carried out to ensure that all mothers and children, even the homeless, received due care.
Deputy secretary and project director Bangladesh Shishu Academy’s early education for children’s growth project, Sultan Alam, said that the early child care policy was drawn up in 2013. He said work was being done at present for the protection of mothers and children in the hill areas, tea gardens and other backward areas.
Unicef’s education manager Mohammed Mohsin said, Bangladesh has a policy on early child care, but just having a policy is not enough. Everyone must make concerted efforts. A benchmark must be put in place to determine what a child’s development should be at various stages. Simply teaching a child to read and write is not enough. Overall growth is the main target of early child care.
Professor of Dhaka University’s Institute of Education and Research (IER), Najmul Huq, said, playing is the most important form of education for an infant. At a pre-primary stage, 60 to 70 per cent of a child’s time must be spent in playing. A child can be taught science, values, and everything through games. And yet they are being burdened with excessive books.
IER professor Tariq Ahsan said that nowadays a good teacher is the one who teaches the children to learn everything off by heart and a good student is the one who doesn’t question, but just learns everything off by heart. This is just creating robots. If a child is to be allowed to grow as it should, then old attitudes, practices and perceptions would have to be discarded.
ICDDRB scientist Jena Hamadani said, alongside physical, mental, social and emotional growth, a child required moral and spiritual growth as well. This was essential in building a good nation.
ICDDRB scientist Fahmida Tofail said that from the foetal stage to six years, a child required different types of care at the different stages. At any stage there is a lack of nutrition, health or education, the child’s growth is obstructed.
Advisor on early child care at the Aga Khan Foundation Bangladesh, Mohammed Golam Mustafa, said, it was important to ensure proper nutrition, medical care and peace for the expectant mother, for an infant to be breast fed for the first six months, to be weaned to regular food at six months. Integrated nutrition and education care is required for a child’s physical and mental development.
Also speaking at the roundtable were Institute of Child and Mother Health’s child disease specialist Professor Wahida Khanam, director Centre for Injury Prevention and Research in Bangladesh SM Saidur Rahman Mashreqi, programme head of BRAC’s education programme Prafulla Chandra Barman, and others.