SAN SALVADOR – Despite various efforts made in El Salvador to give priority to children, the country should invest more in its young citizens and in early education, social policy expert Jimmy Vasquez said in an interview with EFE.
Vasquez, a Salvadoran social policy specialist for the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said that investing in education for children under age 6 is vital to counteract and prevent poverty, violence and inequality.
He said that “it’s not as if (El Salvador) doesn’t want to invest in this phase of people’s lives, but that it wasn’t known that the basic thing is to devote funds to early childhood.”
According to his analysis, development in the early years of life requires integrating the family, the state and other actors in society via the mechanisms that allow the creation of a “whole” approach and contribute to promoting education from the earliest ages.
“We’ve learned that intervening in the first years of life ... – through age 6 – is a strategy that can counteract and prevent poverty, violence and inequality, but El Salvador doesn’t necessarily have policies focused in this area,” Vasquez said.
He said that the country has instruments that protect children from conception, including prenatal monitoring, but “there is a gap between birth and 6 years of aga, a phase where people’s habits and skills are constructed.”
“During this period, aptitudes are developed that will help in the adult phase, such as the ability to work on a team, resolve conflicts and develop linguistic abilities,” he said.
Vasquez said that the country “is neglecting” this phase due to “simple lack of knowledge” and added that “we ... assume that up to age 7 (when Salvadoran children enter school) the conditions must be created to promote development, but what happens at earlier ages?”
“It’s not as if El Salvador is doing nothing on this, but it has focused on other areas, which are not unimportant but are not decisive,” he said.
UNICEF El Salvador on Tuesday presented a public policy proposal called “Investing in our children: a common objective,” that was prepared over two years with input from different sectors and which is based on a neuroscientific analysis to determine the importance of education in early childhood and is focused on urging greater investments in children.
According to El Salvador’s Digestyc statistics institute, 33.4 percent of the country’s households live below the poverty line and 40 percent have children who receive no adult care, as well as being afflicted with low education, no access to social security and underemployment.