Ja minister urges support for early education


The Jamaican government is counting on the support of Canada’s Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) as it advances a national strategy for early childhood education that includes enhancing the quality of schools and care facilities.

Over the past 23 years, PACE – it’s the only organization of its kind outside Jamaica that embraces early childhood education – has contributed thousands of dollars to help prepare kids between the ages of two and five for higher education.

PACE has adopted 275 basic Schools in Jamaica from St. Mary in the north to Clarendon in the south and Portland in the east to Hanover in the west. Each school has an average of 40 students.

In addition, the Toronto-based organization has developed two fully equipped mobile computer buses to ensure that Jamaican children can compete in the evolving technological arena, supported teacher training, book and nutritional programs and a toy drive and provided annual early childhood education scholarships in Canada and Jamaica.

It’s estimated that the organization enriches and empowers the lives of almost 12,000 young children annually.

“We recognize and appreciate deeply the work that has been done by the Diaspora with individual schools,” Jamaica’s Education Minister Andrew Holness said at PACE’s annual adopt-a-school brunch last Sunday in Toronto. “What we would want now is to say to the Diaspora that you should look at our national objective and see how best you could help us to reinforce and to achieve the national aims.”

Holness said the government plans to double expenditure on early childhood education in the next two years as part of its strategy to expand its presence in the sector. There are 2,740 basic schools in Jamaica, but several fall short of meeting acceptable standards of service delivery established by the country’s Early Childhood Commission.

“We plan to look at all the other schools in the country, and those that meet our standards and fall within urban areas that are highly populated, the government will take them over and operate them,” he said. “We plan to do this for the next 10 years until we have totally rationalized the early childhood system such that the level of subsidy given to each child in the early childhood sector is evened out and that all early childhood students get the same level of support from the government, whether they be in the fully-operated government sector or they be in the community sector run by institutions that have met government standards.”

PACE president Mary Anne Chambers pledged her organization’s continued commitment to embrace early childhood education in Jamaica. The former Ontario government minister personally financially supports two basic schools, Wait-a-Bit and Hope.

“We believe these children, so many of whom are of families whose lives involve a constant struggle simply to survive financially, deserve to be able to dream of becoming the very best at whatever they might wish to be and to do,” said Chambers. “We believe they should be able to dream those kinds of dreams, not only for themselves and their families, but also for what their success would mean to Jamaica, the land we love so much.

“We sincerely hope that the entire government of Jamaica truly recognizes the true value of early childhood education for both rural and urban communities and the part it plays in the socio-economic health and strength of Jamaica. We support the higher standards for early childhood institutions that your government believes are necessary for the well-being of the children. We also need you to know that beside and behind those ambitions must also exist the obvious and tangible support of the government.”

To show its appreciation for Holness’ presence at the annual brunch, PACE donated $365 to All Saints Basic School which he helped build in his West Central St. Andrew riding.

“We hope you will deliver the cheque to the school yourself and that when you do so, you will find yourself visualizing the little children as carpenters and doctors, educators and plumbers, lawyers and entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists, ministers of education and prime ministers,” Chambers told Holness.

For a dollar a day, individuals or groups can participate in the organization’s Adopt-A-School core program. The annual $365 donation is sent to the sponsored school where the principal, community leaders and parents determine how the funds should be utilized to improve the educational institution.

“Every society knows that education is the principle vehicle for personal advancement and for economic and social development of a country,” Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Sheila Sealy-Monteith, told the some 500 guests attending the fundraiser. “The government of Jamaica is working through the Ministry of Education for the realization of these objectives.”

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