In difficult economic times, public-private partnerships are an important strategy for increasing investments in young children, globally as well as in the United States. I had the opportunity to participate in the recent launch of a new initiative of the national government of Colombia and private organizations called Primero es lo Primero, which translates as “First Things First.” Primero es lo Primero is a partnership of some 30 private and public organizations, including NIEER. Leading the partnership is De Cero a Siempre (From Zero to Always), the national government’s strategy for comprehensive care for children. De Cero a Siempre has a particularly high profile because its spokesperson is Colombia’s dynamic First Lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos.
The Colombian government has committed $24 million dollars to start this initiative. Among the private partners, the Mario Santo Domingo Foundation has contributed another $20 million to build 13 early childhood centers in low-income areas across the country, serving 5,929 children under the age of 5. In addition, the aeioTu initiative of Fundación Carulla, a leading provider of early childhood education, will contribute $3.2 million to operating these 13 centers. Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Foundation) and the ALAS Foundation, the two organizations associated with singer-songwriter and ECE advocate Shakira, also make up part of this partnership.
On April 12th, First Lady Maria Clemencia Rodriguez de Santos, Pablo Obregón from the Mario Santo Domingo Foundation, Fundación Carulla president Ken Brotman, ALAS president Alejandro Santo Domingo, Shakira Mebarak, and others publicly announced this new partnership on behalf of young children. As about 56 percent of Colombia’s young children are in extreme poverty, this is an important move in the right direction, one that will enhance the life chances of thousands of children.
The above picture of the event shows just a handful of the representatives of all the organizations that have come together in Colombia to strengthen their early childhood services and which is unprecedented in Latin America and the world. From right to left, the following individuals represent various types of organizations:
Milagros Nores (Assistant Research Professor, NIEER), Soraya Montoya (Executive Director, Fundación Saldarriaga Concha), Beatriz Londoño (Health Minister), Diego Molano (National Director of Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar), Bruce Mac Master (Director of the Administrative Office for Social Prosperity), Hernando José Buelvas Leiva (Mayor of San Jacinto), Pablo Gabriel Obregón (Fundación Mario Santo Domingo), María Clemencia Rodríguez de Santos (First Lady of Colombia), Alejandro Santo Domingo (President of ALAS), Shakira Mebarak (Founder of ALAS and Pies Descalzos), María Emma Mejía (General Secretary of UNASUR), Elisa Villaroel Acosta (First Lady of Santa Marta), Rosario Ricardo (Education Secretary of Cartagena), and María Fernanda Campo (National Education Minister).
While these and other partners press on to increase investments in quality early learning experiences in Colombia and throughout Latin America, we at NIEER continue to work with Fundación Carulla on research to illuminate best practices for such programs beginning in the first year of life and continuing to age 5, as I discussed in a previous blog post. I find it noteworthy that even as many states in our wealthy nation are cutting early childhood investments, other countries with fewer resources are finding creative ways to grow their commitments to young children. Perhaps creative private-public partnerships can contribute to forward movement in these and other states.
– Milagros Nores, Assistant Research Professor, NIEER