SOLOMON Islands needs to seriously invest in its people, says Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela.
A child born in Solomon Islands today will only be able to achieve up to 44% of their potential, according to the Solomon Islands Human Capital Index.
This is due to huge gaps in the country’s healthcare, education and child protection systems, the Prime Minister said at a high level national Early Childhood Development (ECD) conference in Honiara recently.
“We need to dedicate serious investment into our human capital,” he said in his keynote address at the conference whose theme was ‘Early Childhood Development: Building Human Resources Capital, Redirecting the Next 40 Years’.
“First, building the human resources capital of our country implies that we are investing in the next generation. It is the next generation who in the next 40 years will celebrate our 80th Independence Anniversary,” he said
“Our investment today will not only ensure a productive workforce but also nurture and prepare the next leaders of our nation who will take our country forward
“The Solomon Islands Government recognises that in order to achieve these objectives, there needs to be serious investment in capacity building. That means more investment in the human capital of this country.”
The one-day conference was organized by the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and supported by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development (MEHRD) and the Ministry of Health and Medical Services (MHMS).
Attending were key government officials, development partners and stakeholders in the Solomon Islands and the aim of the conference was to further their understanding of and commitment towards high quality, equitable, and inclusive early childhood development.
The national consultation follows Solomon Islands’ participation in the 2017 Pacific ECD Conference in which it endorsed, along with 14 other Pacific island countries, the Pasifika Call to Action on ECD -an action agenda that promotes increased investments in ECD and effective multi-sectoral coordination.
The Prime Minister said investing in the country’s children would mean every child attending and completing their primary and secondary education successfully, and pursuing further education at the tertiary level, which would further enhance the Solomon Islands’ pool of educated persons.
“Therefore, contributing to a skilled work force, which will impact positively on the economic outlook of the country. A workforce that is educated and gainfully employed will also reflect in a just and peaceful society.
“A comprehensive early childhood development starts from the time of pregnancy and goes through the early years into the primary education and secondary level. This means, the parents have the most important responsibility in building our human capital,” he said.
Meanwhile, statistics show vast numbers of young Solomon Islands children are failing to develop optimally.
Thirty-three percent of Solomon Islands children have stunted growth, making it one of the highest rates in the Pacific. There are significant disparities between rural and urban areas, and between rich and poor households.
Increasing access to improved water and sanitation remains a key challenge in the country, especially in rural areas, where only 30 percent of households have access to improved water and sanitation facilities.
Local communities mainly operate kindergartens and only around 50 percent of early childhood centres in Solomon Islands are formally registered with the government.
Prime Minister Houenipwela said the National Development Strategy (NDS) 2016-2030 was the main mechanism for achieving the country’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the overall vision and long-term objective of the NDS was to achieve an improvement in the social and economic livelihoods of all Solomon Islanders.
Five key, long term objectives had been identified under the NDS: They are:
- Sustained and inclusive economic growth
- poverty alleviated across the whole of Solomon Islands, including basic needs addressed, food security improved; benefits of development more equitably distributed
- All Solomon Islanders have access to quality health and education
- Resilient and environmentally sustainable development with effective disaster risk management, response and recovery
Unified nations with stable and effective governance and public order.