Sunday, June 04, 2023

His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, praised the efforts of the multi-sectoral UNESCO Regional Office in the Arab Countries and their continuous initiatives to support children in the Arab world, stressing that Sharjah always seeks to enhance cooperation in this field, and will continue to support these efforts by applying standards, hosting conferences, and establishing centres for children.

This came during the opening ceremony of The Regional Early Childhood Care and Education Conference in The Arab States, in the presence of his wife, Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, which is being organised by the UNESCO office in partnership with several local and federal authorities, this Sunday morning at the Sharjah Education Academy.

Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi delivered a speech in which she welcomed the attendees in the Emirate of Sharjah, which is child-friendly and incubator of children’s talents and skills, stressing that hosting The Regional Early Childhood Care and Education Conference in The Arab States in Sharjah is an affirmation of the Emirate’s active role in providing an ideal platform to host events and conferences that promote the concept of child care and ensure their safety and security in a constantly changing world.

She added, “The first years of a person’s life play a major role in building an individual’s identity, starting with learning to walk and communicating verbally with others, through forming relationships and friendships with their peers, until they achieve their independence in society.” Based on this, His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, attaches utmost importance to everything related to raising a child in an environment that preserves his physical and psychological health, and safeguards his rights and dignity as an influential individual in society. Children are the core of the community fabric in the Emirate of Sharjah, and caring for them is a permanent and indisputable priority.”

The Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, spoke about the reasons for the personal initiatives she took for the children, saying “The first steps I personally took to participate in the community development process in Sharjah came out of my responsibility as a mother, so I decided to focus on developing children’s skills in “childhood centres” and ” Sharjah Girls Clubs”, where these centres provided creative spaces in which children practice their hobbies, explore themselves and get to know other children with whom they share these hobbies. And, with the generous blessing of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, we have opened a number of government facilities that have won the trust of parents to be their first choice for their children in refining their skills and developing their talents to invest their abilities outside the classroom.”

Sheikha Jawaher addressed the actual experiences in the Emirate of Sharjah that empowered children and contributed to building their personality and the goals aimed at these steps, saying “We are looking for creativity when it comes to individual care and development in his social environment, and we do not stop at the experiences of others, but rather go beyond them to reach deeper dimensions and higher goals. And in this, Sharjah was a pioneer in motivating children to enter the parliamentary path at an early age, and to invest their developing leadership skills in the experience of the “Sharjah Children’s Shura Council” since 1997, where the child goes through the experience of running for membership in the council in addition to setting his goals as a parliamentary candidate, leading to his attainment of a seat in the council, so that the child learns from this experience that he has a role in developing his society and building his country.

The Emirate of Sharjah was unique to this experience in instilling a sense of belonging to the homeland and enabling children to express their opinions and ideas and share them with their peers, as it is a unique opportunity for them to experience decision-making with democratic practices by asking questions and making interventions and coming up with recommendations supporting the slogan of each session held. Under the slogan “A Quarter of a Century of Excellence in Parliamentary Work,” the current parliamentary session 2022-2024 was launched. We were pleased with the requests of children wishing to run, who numbered 300 boys and girls from affiliates of Rubu’ Qarn centres and all schools of the emirate. This undoubtedly indicates the success of this distinguished experience and its fruitful results in a young generation full of human energies, to be the best ambassador for his country, people and culture.”

“We have not forgotten the importance of focusing on the most prominent aspect of Sharjah’s series of experiences in child care, which is to provide a healthy and safe environment for him in all circumstances; and, in anticipation of events, we launched a campaign under the title “Child Safety”, which aimed to educate new parents on the importance of purchasing a car seat appropriate for the child to ensure his protection on the roads. With the success achieved by the campaign in this awareness march, we directed the continuation of the work of the “Child Safety” as a department falling under the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, and the expansion of the scope of this department’s directions to include protecting the child from any potential danger affecting his health or life, where the administration studies potential risks in the lives of children and educates parents and society as a whole about the need to pay attention to these risks and participate in protecting children from them,” Sheikha Jawaher added.

The Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs expressed her pride in the model presented by the Emirate of Sharjah in the field of child care in all stages of life, noting that choosing Sharjah as the venue for this conference reflects high confidence and competence to represent the effective leadership role in this field, which has become an approach, looking forward to the results and recommendations that will come out of the conference that would enhance regional solidarity in support of childhood, and achieve the sustainable development goals of the United Nations Development Programme.

Costanza Farina, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Arab States, expressed thanks for Sharjah Ruler’s steadfast support for childhood development projects.

She commended Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of Sharjah’s Ruler and Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA), for her efforts in assisting children in different parts of their lives.

Farina also emphasised the conference’s aims of addressing early childhood education, establishing future policies, and underscoring the value of early life in creating people. She stressed the need for raising awareness, providing assistance, and addressing obstacles in this profession.
The UAE Minister of Early Education, Sara Awad Musallam, spoke on the necessity of investing in early education. She emphasised the UAE’s efforts to provide a safe environment for children by utilising cutting-edge technology and integrated teaching approaches.

Over 500,000 children under the age of four live in the UAE, necessitating the construction of an early education ecosystem. Musallam expressed her gratitude to Sharjah for holding this conference to unite efforts and share information in order to increase investment in early education.

Dr. Khawla Abdul Rahman Al-Mulla, Chairperson of Sharjah’s Family Affairs Authority, emphasised Arab countries’ joint commitment to ensuring every child’s right to good care and education from birth. She lauded Sharjah’s proactive vision of prioritising children in all strategic objectives, as well as Sharjah’s achievements in the field of child development.

She concluded her remarks by expressing her hope that the Sharjah strategic conference will contribute to knowledge exchange and the development of a plan for early childhood care and education in the Arab region by 2030.

Maysoun Chehab, Education Programme Specialist at the UNESCO Regional Bureau in Beirut, talked about the UNESCO regional study on early childhood care and education in Arab countries. She emphasised the problems that Arab nations have encountered over the last decade, including conflicts, displacement, natural catastrophes, and the COVID-19 pandemic, and she complimented the efforts made by several Arab countries to improve and broaden the breadth of early childhood care and education.

She ended by referring to the report’s suggestions for strengthening early childhood services, which include government backing, investment in quality, and an emphasis on educational components.

Dr. Ruqia Diawara, the education specialist at the UNESCO office in France, discussed the Tashkent Declaration, which emphasises the commitment to transform early childhood care and education over the next ten years. It outlines four main policy areas: providing equal and inclusive access, supporting professionals, fostering innovation, and strengthening governance and financing. A resolution signed by 57 countries, including the UAE, aims to monitor and implement the declaration.

His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah watched with the attendees a presentation titled “A Visual Message from Sharjah Nurseries” during the event.

The presentation showed youngsters from Sharjah nurseries taking part in lectures and essential activities while at the nurseries. The youngsters thanked His Highness and his wife for their commitment to children by creating nurseries.

His Highness inspected the accompanying exhibition prior to the inauguration, passing by the booths of participating institutions such as the Sharjah Education Academy, Sharjah Private Education Authority, Sharjah Health Authority, and the Federal Agency for Early Childhood Education.

His Highness learnt about the important responsibilities these organisations play in assisting children and the projects they conduct. His Highness also kindly posed for pictures with members from the UNESCO Regional Office for Education in the Arab States.

The conference aims to assess the progress made in the Arab region towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4.2 and other sustainable development goals related to early childhood. It also seeks to exchange knowledge on key enabling factors, emerging research findings, best practises, and innovations in developing high-quality policies and programmes for early childhood care and education.

Furthermore, the conference aims to identify opportunities, set priorities, and develop strategies to achieve desired goals and increase investment in early childhood care from governments and their partners. It emphasises solidarity and enhances regional partnership for the cause of early childhood, while also examining Sharjah’s experience in early childhood care and education.

The conference highlights four key areas to enhance early childhood care and education in the region. These include inclusiveness, quality, well-being, the workforce in early childhood care and education, carers, programme innovation, as well as policies, governance, and financing.

Also present at the event were Sara Awad Musallam, UAE Minister of Early Education; Dr. Khawla Abdul Rahman Al-Mulla, Chairperson of the Family Affairs Authority in Sharjah; Dr. Abdulaziz bin Butti Al Muhairi, Chairman of the Sharjah Health Authority; Mohammed Obaid Al Zaabi, Head of the Protocol and Hospitality Department; Dr. Muhadditha Al Hashimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Private Education Authority; Costanza Farina, Director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Arab States; and a number of representatives of the educational sector in the country and children’s centres.