JIS: There is a 30 per cent increase in the 2017/18 budget for early-childhood institutions (ECIs), and resources are being set aside to help those institutions most urgently in need of assistance.

 

This was stated by Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, at a meeting with members of Region Five, at Everglades Centre, in Black River, St. Elizabeth on February 17.

 

This was the third in the series of Early Childhood Commission (ECC) Certification fairs, aimed at getting all of the island’s infant schools to operate according to the 12 standards set by the ECC.

 

Senator Reid noted that in the 2016/17 fiscal year, the Ministry also budgeted $30 million to partner with the ministries of Health, and Labour and Social Security to reactivate the stimulation programme for mother and child, from birth to age three.

 

He said that come September, there will be an increase in the allocation for grade-one and -two students from below $1,000 to $2,500 each; and grades seven to nine would move from $11,000 to $19,000 per student.

 

The Minister pointed out that there are examples of persons who informally started a basic school on their verandahs, and it is important that all stakeholders achieve the 12 standards set by the ECC in the shortest possible time.

 

“The objective of today’s fair is to sensitise you about what the standards are and what needs to be done. The rationalisation process is to ensure that more children have access to trained teachers in established, certified, government-operated infant departments and infant schools,” Senator Reid stressed.

 

There are currently 2,859 ECIs operating in Jamaica. Of that number, 2,515 have applied for certification and, to date, only 26 have achieved certification status.

 

As part of the certification process, 206 ECI practitioners have been fingerprinted in order to acquire police records, and 63 have accessed medical examinations. Police records and medical examinations are among the requirements for ECI staff, in keeping with the standards for the operation, management and administration of ECIs.

 

Senator Reid also told the hundreds of participants at the fair that an Oversight Committee is being established to oversee the development of a comprehensive strategy to revitalise the vision for the Jamaican child from birth to eight years.

 

This, he said, is intended to advance the early-childhood-development sector towards internationally accepted levels.

 

Meanwhile, the ECC Chairman, Mrs. Trisha Williams-Singh, said the certification fairs came about as a result of listening to the needs of the practitioners and ensuring that the sector is improved and can move forward.

 

“I am hoping to have 100 institutions certified by August. This drive is solely to improve the standards of our early-childhood institutions. Many times we make decisions without consulting with those most affected. We are now involving the stakeholders for the benefit of our most vulnerable citizens,” she said.

 

Also attending the fair were sponsors and participants, including the Jamaica Constabulary Force; the fire services; National Commercial Bank; Digicel; the College of Agriculture, Science and Education; Carlong Publishers; Child Development Agency; Social Development Commission; Red Cross; and National Bakery.

 

CAPTION: Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (left); State Minister in the Ministry, Hon. Floyd Green (centre) and Member of Parliament for St. Elizabeth North-East, Mr. Evon Redman, watch a performance by infant-school children at the Early Childhood Commission Certification Fair for Region Five, held at Everglades Centre, in Black River, St Elizabeth, on February 17.