Director-General Inaugurates Regional Early Childhood Centre in the Syrian Arab Republic
Praising the Syrian Arab Republic for its commitment to “the most important stage in the life of every human being,” UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova inaugurated the Early Childhood Development Regional Centre in Damascus, the first of its kind in the region, on 26 October 2010, jointly with the country’s First Lady Mrs Asma Al Assad and the Minister of Education, Dr Ali Saad.
The Category II Centre, placed under the auspices of UNESCO, is the result of cooperation between the Ministry of Education, UNESCO and AGFUND.
“We all know that education brings development, empowers people and opens new perspectives in their life. We know education makes societies more just and more inclusive,” said Ms Bokova. “Scientific data increasingly shows that the first years in life play an incredibly important role in the development of the potential of human beings,” said Ms Bokova.
The Centre will strengthen national and regional capacity in a region where enrolment in pre-primary education, averaging 19 percent, remains well below the 41 percent world average.
The four-floor building features a model and experimental kindergarten welcoming some 70 children, a library, a workshop to make educational toys, research centre and rooms for trainings and seminars.
The Centre is currently focusing on training about child protection, psychological health and teaching and learning. It organizes workshops for kindergarten teachers and conducts awareness raising activities on early childhood issues in local communities. Training teams from the Centre run courses in several Syrian provinces.
The Centre will also provide training to senior policy makers on early childhood development, facilitate access to professional technical information in Arabic and offer training in applied research through fact-finding missions and other initiatives in the region.
“As Director-General of UNESCO, the lead agency for education, we are very proud to be associated with this initiative,” said Ms Bokova. “We need strong advocacy for early childhood education to be introduced into policies and to pass the message that the most marginalized and disadvantaged populations be included in this process. We also need to strengthen international cooperation, the purpose of this Centre.”
The Director-General congratulated the Director of the Centre and its staff and praised the government for its drive to modernize the education system, improve quality and revise the curriculum.
“This Regional Centre will directly contribute to the country’s national education strategy, respond to challenges in the Arab region and is aligned with international efforts in this field,” said Minister Saad.
During her short mission to the Syrian Arab Republic, the Director-General held bilateral meetings with the Minister of Education and with the First Lady, Mrs Al Assad. Among the topics discussed were UNESCO’s cooperation in the field of educational reform and the protection and promotion of the country’s cultural heritage.