UNICEF’s Regional Director for Latin America and Caribbean, Bernt Aasen, ended a two day visit to Dominica on Wednesday April 10.
The purpose of the visit for was to get an update on projects and programmes supported by UNICEF in the country.
During his visit, Aasen met with Prime Minister Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Minister for Education Hon. Peter Saint Jean and Social Services Minister Hon. Gloria Shillingford.
Aasen also had the opportunity to visit educational institutions catering to vulnerable youth in the Carib Territory and Roseau.
The UNICEF Regional Director whilst here took the opportunity to follow up on the country’s commitment to report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child Committee. He told a press conference on Wednesday afternoon that he is impressed with his findings.
“We got very good news from the Hon. Minister of Social Services that the report from the Government to the Committee of the Rights of the Child is just about to be finalized and within a week or two they will issue the report to the Committee in Geneva. That is good news because its gives the Committee an opportunity to give policy feedback to the Government and also to UNICEF” he stated.
Currently UNICEF is supporting the Government of Dominica in ensuring that marginalized and disadvantaged groups of urban and rural children benefit from effective service delivery.
A visit by the UNICEF official to schools in the Carib Territory confirmed that much progress has been made in that area.
Aasen said ‘’ In many countries providing education to minority groups is always a big challenge but we visited the schools in the Carib Territory and we spoke to children of both primary and secondary schools and it is clear that they are very appreciative of the opportunity to attend school. We understand from them that many of their parents did not have this opportunity, so we can clearly see that there has been a lot of progress there.”
The Regional Director of UNICEF is also impressed with efforts by Government to make Early Childhood Education (ECE) compulsory.
“The new policy that has been developed for Early Childhood Development are quite ground breaking in the sense that Dominica is really showing the way in the Caribbean sub region in terms of giving priority to investment in children at a very early age, which is exactly what you need to do, if you want them to be able to develop to the maximum of their potential” he affirmed.
Government’s efforts at Universal Secondary Education (USE) also came in for high praise from the visiting UNICEF official.
“Making secondary Education compulsory according to UNICEF is the right thing to do. We know this is costly but we know that Dominica is among the countries that have the highest percentage of their national state budget actually dedicated to Education. We need to congratulate the Government, the Cabinet and the Minister for this achievement” he said.
The Regional Director of UNICEF who was accompanied by his colleague Khin-Sandi Lwin also had the opportunity to hold discussions with officials of the Ministry of Social services on important matters such as violence against children and sexual abuse of children.
The UNICEF Delegation left island on Wednesday.