TCI News

TCI: Educators and Education Officers now better equipped to protect vulnerable children

#Providenciales, July 27, 2019 – Turks and Caicos – The Ministry of Education, Youth, Culture, Library and Social Services  with the support from the European Union is working to ensure Education Officers and school Principals are better equipped to identify and cope with children who may be exposed to or suffering from violence and abuse.

Ms. Heidy Williams is the Education Officer with responsibility for Early Childhood Education and she explained that a recent training session successfully demonstrated to participants their key roles and responsibilities when it comes to safeguarding children, “Child protection and safe-guarding refers to the protection and safe-guarding of all children against violence.

It ensures that systems are in place to prevent, identify and stop violence that are already happening. Violence against children can be in the form of poor nutrition, poor health care, lack of affection, unresponsive care, child maltreatment, neglect, corporal punishment, exposure to violence and abuse (physical, emotional, sexual).”

Hurting children can now be much better served due to the techniques and strategies learned during the training session. Ms. Williams said a component of the program called, Courageous Conversation, had a major impact on the educators.

“Holding Courageous Conversations is the process of having the confidence to be bold and direct in order to show awareness and bring about change to a situation, recognizing that the implications can be difficult but the outcomes are generally positive.”

Admittedly, when these situations arise, they can be disconcerting and downright uncomfortable. 

Ms. Williams notes that “these components are extremely important to the Ministry because children are most vulnerable to violence and these adverse experiences early in life can impair the brain architecture. Early stress due to violence elevates the stress hormone cortisol and this can disrupt brain development altering academic performance and causing harmful mental and physical consequences that can last into adulthood.”

Ms. Williams further expressed that even one incident where a child is impacted by negative events or environments are viewed as too much.

“With the challenges of sporadic incidences of violence against children, the Ministry of Education recognizes the need to be proactive in guaranteeing the safety and well-being of children into adulthood,” said Ms. Williams who added that, “the training even helped Education Officers and Principals to understand how to begin Courageous Conversations. The method we are using is known as the ‘OARS Approach’.  It is an acronym for O- open ended questions; A- Affirmation; R- Reflective listening and S for Summarizing.  Emphasis was placed on how to interview, noting the importance of preparation, opening comments, body language, how to respond, listening and tone of voice.”

Public and private school principals and Education Officers were equipped with the skills of active listening without interrupting, how to interview, how to analyze a situation and the risk involved, how to stay neutral, methods of getting one’s attention, words to avoid when interviewing parents, helping them to find solutions to problems and methods of communicating to children in an age appropriate manner.

The training was facilitated by Barnardo’s, a British charity dedicated to protecting vulnerable children and organised for the Turks and Caicos from May 4-6, 2019 by the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

“Improving the Education System in the TCI…..Together we can do it”

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