‘IT TAKES A VILLAGE TO BRING UP A CHILD’
work experiences in the UK, East Africa, Brazil, and Papua New Guinea had
convinced me that public services such as Early Education, Childcare, and
Health and Social welfare were best delivered through a community development
approach and in an integrated way. No one benefits from being the passive
recipient of welfare handouts and there is nothing sustainable about such ways
of working. Above anything else, I have always worked at developing sustainable
projects, projects that have been conceptualised, designed, and developed by
the people who want to use the services.
When I worked as a volunteer for a local wage, I lived locally and engaged with local people as friends and co-workers. I believe in public service and whilst I wish we didn’t need a welfare state, I believe the poorest families deserve the very best services. We have to have a more equal society and that means we will have to pay higher taxes if we are to get services that support everyone and give children the best possible start in life.
There is a phrase in Portuguese dar um jeito which means ‘find a way’. We can always find a better way of working. Services can always be more integrated, more effective, and more accessible. Children are born into families and communities and from the start public services need to respect parents as the most important and influential people in their children lives.
In my experience working for 45 years across three continents, all parents want more for their children than they themselves ever had. Sometimes parents struggle with the overwhelming burden of parenting on their own, in poverty, or with mental health problems then we need to establish a team around the child and her family.
It takes a village to bring up a child. In contemporary society, our early childhood settings have to become supportive non-judgemental communities and early educators have to be the alloparents sharing the care of little children with their families.
These integrated services for children and their families are also sites where parents can reclaim their right to education post 16. Adult learning has to be offered alongside children’s nursery classes. We have to show respect for the adult learners’ enormously important life experiences and honour the difficult learning pathways they may have followed.
Children’s learning environments need to be an experiential magical environment where they engage artistically, musically, scientifically, mathematically, dialogically; the parents learning environment needs to be a congenial, safe, and stimulating environment with plenty of childcare resources where teachers are learners and learners can be teachers.