Students from Central Abaco joined the Department of Social Services for their march in observance of Child Protection Month on April 21. The march began at Dove Plaza and ended at the Bahamas Government Complex.
Participating schools included: Every Child Counts (ECC), Central Abaco Primary School (CAPS), Little Darlings Academy, Change Preparatory School, Grace Baptist Pre-School, Angels Academy, Agape Christian School, Long Bay School and Abaco Central High School (ACH).
During the march, each school held up their creatively designed banners related to the theme of – “Protecting Our Children, Protecting Our Future.” Abaco Central High School’s band performed outstandingly eliciting Junkanoo music from their instruments as they marched toward the Government Complex where a Child Protection Month Rally and ceremony would take place.
Social Services staff members, and various schools participated in the ceremony leading up to Dr. Novia Carter-Higgs’s remarks as the guest speaker.
Dr. Carter-Higgs addressed the audience on doing their part to make a difference throughout the Commonwealth of The Bahamas. For the entire month of April, the National Child Protection Council, the Department of Social Services and Community Development, and the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Unit (SCAN) of the Ministry of Health have all combined efforts to celebrate Child Protection Month.
“We believe that the future prosperity of our great nation depends on our ability to foster the health and well-being of the next generation, our children,” she declared. “To this end, the theme for Child Protection Month 2016 ‘Protecting our Children, Protecting our Future’ encapsulates our commitment to ensuring that every community invests wisely in children and families.”
She identified known protective factors like maternal mental health, knowledge about parenting and child development, strong parental attachments that prevent and reduce child abuse and supportive ‘villages’ as the best vaccines against child abuse, neglect or violence.
Dr. Carter-Higgs added: “The Blue Ribbon has been, and will continue to be, used as a symbol of child abuse awareness, but the symbol represents children who have been harmed or died as a result of abuse. Our goal, however, is to steer focus away from the problem of child abuse toward the solutions of effective prevention.
“To accomplish this, we are promoting another symbol, a Pinwheel. An uplifting symbol of childhood, which represents our efforts to ensure the healthy development of our future leaders and architects of a new Bahamas. This symbol of a happy, carefree childhood, is a reflection of hope, health and safety and our belief that all children deserve a bright future.”
In an effort to accomplish this mission, all members of society are called on to collectively and individually create healthy and supportive communities through advocacy efforts, program development, collaboration, inclusion and education, she said.
Dr. Carter-Higgs firmly believes that the message of prevention lies with the way we communicate it.
“If we change the way we communicate this prevention message to our audience from one of ‘awareness of the problem’ to ‘effective prevention programs’ the pinwheel will spin and more children will have a chance for a healthy childhood.”
As she called on all citizens of our communities to ensure that all children have an equal opportunity for growth and development, she also asked them to consider the question of: “How can we ensure that every child has an equal opportunity for healthy growth and development?”
“For it is our belief that the next generation will continue to turn the blue and silver pinwheels as they too are committed to ‘Protecting our Children, Protecting our Future’ and they will pay it forward through a lifetime of productivity and responsible citizenship,” she concluded.
Toward the end of the ceremony, Long Bay School was identified as the winner of the banner competition.