Today, Lalani Damayanthi Perera is pretending to be a crow. A teacher at the Singithi Kekulu Pre-school and Day Care Centre, Lalani and her assistant (who is wearing a fox mask) are acting out the classic Aesop fable for a group of 40 Sri Lankan children, all of whom are under the age of five. In the story, the fox uses flattery to trick the crow into dropping a piece of cheese; as Lalani gives out a loud ‘caw’, the children giggle.
Lalani learned how to use drama effectively in the classroom at a training on early childhood development. “Before I used to use only picture cards and books to narrate stories,” she says, explaining that acting is both more fun and more effective. The children can re-tell the story at home, and their recall is improved. “Even if we ask after a month’s period, they remember how the teacher acted.”
Lalani received her training through the first stand-alone Early Childhood Development (ECD) project supported by the World Bank in South Asia. As part of the project, a National Census of ECD centers has helped identify key challenges, including the urgent need to -upgrade facilities and to provide training for teachers, child development officers, and parents of young children.
Promoting early childhood development is promoting equity
Lalani knows that the socio-economic status of families around her plays a big role in whether children are sent to pre-school or not. Some families struggle to scrape together the fees. “The families around our preschool in our village are poor,” says Lalani, adding that many are daily wage laborers employed as masons, carpenters or gardeners.
Lalani’s experience confirms why Sri Lanka must pay special attention to improving access to ECD for children from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds, in all parts of Sri Lanka.
The latest net enrolment rates for ECD across wealth quintiles reveal how approximately 54 percent of children from Sri Lankan households in the highest quintile are enrolled in preschool, compared to only 44 percent from the lowest quintile. It is clear, even at the highest quintiles, that there is significant room for improvement. Disparities also exist between urban and estate sectors, with 54 percent enrolment in cities, compared to 42 percent in the plantations, according to the latest Sri Lanka Household Income and Expenditure (HIES) data
This is a concern with studies establishing that children from economically disadvantaged families are at a greater risk of poor cognitive development than children from richer households. Early developmental delays can have long-term and potentially irreversible consequences. In this context, access to early childhood education can help equalize learning opportunities, and promote equitable development.
Training programmes should target parents
While the importance of teacher training is widely recognized, more can be done to educate parents about the benefits of early childhood education. Targeted programs not only encourage families to take advantage of the services offered by preschools and other ECD centers, but also to help them to understand their role at home, including how play, early learning and stimulation, and nutrition impact their children.
Beginning in January and going into May every year, Suranjee Udayanganee an Early Childhood Development Officer, gathers groups of parents to conduct awareness programs. One of her big challenges is getting parents to understand that early childhood education is not about academic learning but rather about how play-centered activities and socialization can provide invaluable benefits to their children.
She helps parents identify activities they can do at home, such as helping children recognize shapes, learn songs or identify vegetables. “Parents have to make the environment at home child-friendly,” she says. “This cannot be done by anyone else, cannot be bought for money, or by sending them to tuition classes.”
Suranjee explains that young children learn best from experiences. “They grab fast to what they see and learn from that, so what the child sees in the family and the earliest environment should be positive.”
Sri Lanka needs to invest more in early childhood education
Investing in early childhood development makes economic sense for Sri Lanka, as such interventions have proven to have high benefit-cost ratios as well as the best rate of return on any human capital investment. Children who are exposed to such programmes typically report improved performance on standardized tests, reduced school drop-out rates, and increased grade retention rates.
While recognition of its importance has been growing in Sri Lanka, this recognition has not been matched by increased investment in the sector. Among middle-income countries, the average public expenditure on early childhood education (as a percentage of GDP) is .03 percent. In contrast, Sri Lanka spends just 0.0001 percent of its GDP on early childhood education – one of the lowest ratios of public spending on ECD in the world. In addition, a large percentage of ECE centers lack sufficient basic inputs such as protected drinking water, first-aid boxes, blackboards, toys, scrap materials. When these necessities are provided, children thrive.
As part of the Early Childhood Development project, the World Bank supported the expansion of Lalani’s school. On a visit, Suranjanee points out that the school can now cater to more students, and has also been provided with much-needed teaching materials. “It’s very clear the difference between the condition of this place before and now,” says the Early Childhood Development officer. “There’s the space, more objects for children to use. The surrounding is built to suit the children.”
Happiness Is Around You
Happiness is a beautiful combination of joy and pleasure, that gives the way to peace. Happiness is a subjective feeling but today’s world gives it an objective meaning. We have associated our happiness with wealth, bank balance, property, gold, and other materialistic things. But the basic formula of happiness lies in the forgotten pleasures. The pleasures once cherished by our elders are still the true sources of happiness, but unfortunately, we forget these ones.
food, sleep, children, books, smiles, music, prayers, Quran, charity, timely
forgiveness, honesty, appreciation, support, outdoor games, socializing,…….all these components have lost their effects in our lives. We have forgotten to enjoy the pleasure of our good health because we do not care about that. Whereas, to have a healthy body, a healthy physique gives the ultimate pleasure of being fit in life and free from diseases.
Everyone is hurrying and running away. We are unable to give proper time to sleep, to children, to elders, and most importantly to ourselves. Elders do not realize that their children need them. They consider it enough, to give all the material things to their kids. But they are mistaken. Children want their real-time. They have so many problems to share with their parents. It is their first and foremost right to have quality time with their elders. On the other side of the picture, kids are themselves now so busy in useless activities, that they almost do not bother to spend time with family. They have made their own corners, which is making them a more introvert and un-socialized.
It is said that “A smile is not just a way to exhibit your happiness and well-being, it is also a way to make people good about themselves. “But we are misers and cowards to share our smile with others so that it may not spread like a wave of pleasure. We have become selfish almost at everything.
Similarly, forgiveness enables
you to decide about your relationship with others based on happiness. In this
state, you are tolerating others and in a long way, you feel closer to other
But we the so-called “good human beings” like to take revenge, We like people hurting back in a more hard way. We do not forgive. We are egoistic. We like seeing others in pain. We enjoy to see them in a more miserable condition and in more hardships. We do not like to forgive others easily. We do not like to help others. We are harsh. We cannot see others’ happiness.
Life is wonderful and worth living, but we have made it very unhappy by creating ethnic, provincial, national and international conflicts. We live in a continuous race state of the race, running for our desires and positions. I do not condom this living style as I understand for such people, happiness is all about getting things. But to neglect many other things that are the true sources of bringing happiness in life is not a good idea. Do find some positive ways to find happiness in life. Happiness that would last forever. The happiness that is collective, constructive and subjective.
New lives, new freedoms: How labour migration empowers Nepali women
When I first met Ram Kumari Chaudhary, she was an extremely shy, but solemn, 19-year-old. She told me she wanted to go to work in Jordan to support her parents, adding that there were few opportunities to find a decent job in Nepal. Soon afterwards, in 2017, I learned that she had found a job in Jordan’s booming garment industry, earning, on average, around US$350 a month. Every three or four months she faithfully sent back about three-quarters of her salary to her parents in Nepal.
After about 18 months, her father’s poor health forced her to resign and return home. She brought with her a refund of her social security contributions worth about US$500, as well as some other savings. Her employer in Jordan also gave her a free airfare home as a welfare gesture. When we met again she had metamorphosed into a confident young lady, emboldened by her worldly experience and proud of her achievements. “I was able to make a support building a small home for my parents in the village,” she told me. “I have been supporting my father’s treatment. I brought back a flat screen TV when I came back. I have a modest saving if I want to do something. And, I have already been offered a job in a factory here. Given my international experience, the salary package is also good. Had I stayed in Nepal, I would not have earned that much.”
Chaudhary’s household is one of the 57 per cent in Nepal receiving remittances from migrant workers. So important are these financial flows to the Nepali economy that they are equivalent to 26 per cent of the country’s GDP. And, they are growing. In the financial year 2018/19 alone the country received migrants’ remittances of NPR 879.26 billion (US$ 7.76 billion), up from NPR 231.72 billion (US$ 2.05 billion) in the fiscal year 2009/10.
25-year-old Maya Chepang Praja, from Chitwan, south-west of the Nepali capital, Kathmandu, opted to work abroad to support the upbringing of her son, then aged three, after her husband abandoned them. Despite very little education, in Jordan she earned an average of USD275 per month – more than double the USD130 she was paid working at a factory in Nepal – and she was able to save most of this to send back to Nepal for her son.
Unfortunately, she was forced to return to Nepal after less than nine months of working in Jordan when her son, who was being cared for by his grandmother, had his leg crushed in an accident. “If the accident didn’t occur and if I had stayed back [in Jordan], I would have earned enough to give my son a good life, a good education. However, whatever I earned in the nine months helped me at least get his leg back. I will always be grateful for that,” she told me. She is now looking for another job abroad.
The importance of migration and remittances will continue to grow in Nepal, because approximately 500,000 individuals are entering the labour market annually but only one in 10 are finding jobs. In these circumstances, it seems close to impossible to lead a quality life, with access to health, education and decent housing, without going for foreign employment. Furthermore, as these young women’s stories show, opportunities to work overseas in decent jobs have also made an important contribution to the empowerment of Nepali women in a broader sense of the term. This is seldom taken into consideration in larger studies on the socio-political impact of remittances and foreign employment.
The drive for quality education worldwide, faces ‘mammoth challenges’
Aligning inclusive, quality education with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was centre-stage on Friday, as the President of the UN General Assembly held a high-level interactive meeting for the International Day of Education.
“The education sector is wrestling with mammoth challenges worldwide”, said Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, in his message for the day.
Listing them, he said there was a “precipitate decline” in the quality and standards of education; a widening knowledge gap between students in technically advanced societies and those in developing countries; a crisis of learning in conflict zones; growing school bullying, and “the declining esteem of the teaching profession” overall.
Mr. Muhammad-Bande maintained that today’s education must “bridge the yawning gap” between the modern employment needs for specialized skills, and actual learning opportunities.
“School curricula have yet to anticipate and respond to workplace needs for hands-on, vocational, ICT applications, and sundry technical skills, while still advancing the traditional scholastic pursuits”, he stated.
Moreover, he highlighted, “the significance of the deficits in education outcome becomes obvious when viewed alongside the spiralling population crisis”.
Education in a crisis
The fate of school children trapped in conflict zones deserves even more urgent attention.
According to UNICEF, in 2017, 500 attacks were staged on schools in 20 countries worldwide. In 15 of those 20, troops and rebel forces turned classrooms into military posts.
Thousands of children were recruited to fight, sometimes made to serve as suicide bombers, or forced to endure direct attacks.
“The learning environment may also be rendered unsafe by gun-toting, machete-wielding, gangs and unruly youths, and by sexual predators on school premises”, Mr. Muhammad-Bande said.
And natural disasters pose additional threats to the learning environment.
Cyclones, hurricanes and storms are among the climatic conditions that periodically wreak havoc on school buildings and facilities, making learning difficult, if not impossible.
“The choices that education stakeholders make have direct impact on various social groups, particularly, disadvantaged groups like rural communities, the urban poor, persons with disabilities, and women”, upheld the PGA, noting that nearly two-thirds of the world’s illiterate adults are female, mostly in under-developed countries.
Choice also becomes critical in the struggle to elevate the status of the teaching profession, recruit competent and motivated teachers, and expose teachers to innovative techniques.
But there are bright spots he said: “Forward-looking education policies have contributed to the attainment of SDG targets in some countries”, asserted Mr. Muhammad-Bande.
And participants at this year’s International Day of Education are given the opportunity “to share international good practices in inclusive quality education”.
Partnerships are key
Education enhances the “analytical, inventive and critical thinking capacities of human beings”, the Assembly President said, adding that in the process, it accelerates each nation’s technological attainments and economic growth.
“When a society remains perpetually under-developed, it must among other things re-evaluate its education system”, said Mr. Muhammad-Bande. “If the system is dysfunctional or does not facilitate the acquisition of pertinent knowledge and skills, the economy will, at best, stagnate, and at worst, collapse”.
Bearing in mind the “tremendous amount of work” that lies ahead, he shared his belief that partnerships can play an important role in implementing and attaining the SDGs, which is why his office “has placed strong emphasis on engendering partnerships across key priority areas”, including education.
In conclusion, Mr. Muhammad-Bande urged Member States and other key partners to examine the feasibility and value-added support in establishing a network of key existing education networks to exchange information and ideas, “including sources of support, relating to all aspects of education”.
Power of education
“Education has the power to shape the world”, Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed spelled out at the podium.
“Education protects men and women from exploitation in the labour market” and “empowers women and gives them opportunities to make choices”, she said.
Moreover, it can help change behaviour and perceptions, thereby fighting climate change and unsustainable practices. A quality experience in the classroom helps promote mutual respect and understanding between people; combat misperceptions, prejudice and hate speech; and prevent violent extremism.
“Without education, we cannot achieve any of the SDGs”, Ms. Mohammed flagged.
And yet, with 2030 looming on the horizon, the world is lagging behind, prompting the Secretary-General to issue a global call for a Decade of Action, to accelerate the implementation of the SDGs.
“The situation in education is alarming…because of the crisis in the number of children, young people and adults who are not in education”, as well as because many who are, are not learning.
And refugees and migrants face additional challenges.
According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the proportion of refugees enrolled in secondary education is 24 per cent, only three per cent of whom have access to higher education.
“We have the power to shape education, but only if we work together and really bring the partnerships that are necessary to provide quality education”, she concluded. “We have a duty to step up our efforts, so that quality education for all is no longer a goal for tomorrow, but a reality”.
Invest in education
Action for “the four Ps on which our future depends”, namely people, prosperity, the planet and peace, is imperative, according to the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and CulturalOrganization, UNESCO in her Friday message.
Although education is “a valuable resource for humanity”, Director-General Audrey Azoulay pointed out that it is “all too scarce for millions of people around the world”.
A global learning crisis, confirmed by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, is a major cause for concern as it is also a crisis for prosperity, for the planet, for peace and for people”, she said, urging everyone to take action for education “because education is the best investment for the future”.
UNESCO has been charged with coordinating the international community’s efforts to achieve SDG 4, quality education for all.
“First and foremost”, the UNESCO chief said, “our Organization takes action for people, by making education an instrument of inclusion and, therefore, of empowerment”.
Changing lives, transforming communities
“It changes lives, transforms communities and paves the way towards productive, sustainable and resilient societies in which children – girls and boys – can reach their full potential”, she expanded, urging everyone to strengthen their efforts to manifest a world in which every child receives a quality education that allows growth, prosperity, empowerment and so they can “make meaningful contributions to communities big and small, everywhere”.
After MSC: A New EU and a New Strategic NATO concept?
There are many reactions to the Munich Security Conference and the speeches of Macron, Pompeo, Laschet and Steinmeier. Two are...
How to Save the Failing World Order?
Many in the West believe China’s economic ascendancy indicates that Beijing is covertly working to usher in a new world...
Ten reasons why joining the EAEU could be beneficial for Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan joining the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) could reduce the costs of imported intermediate goods for the Azerbaijani industry, increase...
Banks and Artificial Intelligence
“Artificial Intelligence” is a terminology specifically invented in 1956 by John McCarthy and concerns the ability to make appropriate generalizations...
The EU’s Response to COVID-19
The European Commission is working on all fronts to support efforts to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. This includes ongoing coordination...
Artificial Intelligence: Potential Intensifier of Strategic Dynamics in South Asia
With growing dependency on artificial rationalization, human reasoning and decision-making is under continuous suppression. Where machine learning and deep learning...
Officers Exchanged Fire With Troops Near National Palace As Government Announced Carnival
According to reports, Haitian police officers exchanged gunfire for hours on Sunday (February 23th, 2020) with soldiers of the newly...
South Asia1 day ago
Pakistan- Afghanistan- Turkey Trilateral Summits and its implication for the region
South Asia2 days ago
The Foreign Policy of Pakistan under Imran Khan
Africa2 days ago
Situation in central Mali ‘deteriorating’ as violence, impunity rise
South Asia3 days ago
Guterres lauds Pakistan’s commitment to climate change
Newsdesk3 days ago
UNIDO and Switzerland expand cooperation to support cocoa value chain in Nicaragua’s mining triangle
Economy3 days ago
The Reckoning: Debt, Democracy and the Future of American Power- Book Review
Americas2 days ago
Can Anyone Beat Trump?
Science & Technology2 days ago
Future Goals in the AI Race: Explainable AI and Transfer Learning