There is hardly a day that we do not read about incidences of violence. It is not uncommon for parents, grandparents, caregivers and adults close to children (closeness in term of relationship and/or in physical space) to subject them to physical, mental, emotional, social and/or sexual violence and neglect. The violence – whether in real life or virtual – has life-long impact on the young child’s physical, mental and socio-emotional development when the violence takes place in the formative years of a child’s life.
Incidences of violence in early childhood settings (e.g. childcare centre, preschools/kindergartens, care centres, and homes), abound though many may not realize that these acts of violence harm the architecture of the brain. To many, acts such as yelling, screaming, hitting, fighting over playthings, name calling and rejection by peers are normal reactions of young children and have no impact on children’s well-being. But, neuro-scientists have shown that these acts are likely to produce stress hormones, especially if child feels the injustice or feels victimised. Constant and frequent experiences result in alteration in the brain structure.
Likewise adults – whether they are parents, guardians, preschool teachers or childcare providers or any caregiver – cause cortisols or stress hormones to be generated in children’s brains when they yell, scream, shake, ridicule, label them by name calling, discriminate and so forth. Some adults even believe that these acts of violence are good for children as they enable them to handle the harsh realities of life. Unfortunately the findings of neuro-scientists have disclosed otherwise.
The Board for Professional Quality, ECCE Council, being mandated to ensure quality early childhood education in the private sector, is organizing the Violence-free Early Childhood Forum to raise awareness of the impact violence has on children in the five years of their lives. Owing to my friendship with her, Ms Marta Santos Pais, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children, has graciously accepted my invitation to present the keynote address in the Violence-free Early Childhood Forum. We are indeed privileged that Ms Pais has accepted the invitation; it is not every day that we have such a well-known person from the United Nations to speak to us on violence against children.
We are limiting the number of participants to only 200 because Ms Pais will speak for only 30 minutes as she wants to dialogue with the participants. She is very good at this as I have attended a few of her sessions when I was Malaysia’s Representative to the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC).
Professor Cynthia Leung from Hong Kong, a well-known expert on positive parenting will be the speaker for the session on positive parenting.
We have also assembled panellists from a wide range of experiences to discuss issues on violence-free early childhood settings and issues on parenting. The Forum programme will be released soon.
The good news is that we are extending the early bird fee to 9 February due to appeals from several quarters based on several grounds, including the long Chinese New Year holidays.
Datuk Dr Chiam Heng Keng
Board for Professional Quality, ECCE Council &