Nadisha Hunter, Staff Reporter
Early childhood education advocates embark on project to enhance brain development
TWO EARLY childhood education specialists have taken the lead role to implement programmes to contribute to the development of children's brains from birth to three years old.
Olivia Wilmot and Nicolette McDonnough-Foster, who have established advocacy project 'Connect with Your Baby', said enough is not being done to educate parents on how they should deal with their young ones so they can be fully prepared for the early childhood education system.
According to Wilmot, if that age cohort is not dealt with in the right way, there could be problems in the early childhood education system.
"Not all of those problems are irreversible, but they are very difficult to reverse because of the nature of brain development. The question is, what do you do with this age group?" she argued.
"The former administration created a baby kit with the passport that mothers get when they just have a baby, but when I spoke to most mothers, the practical area of the kit, they store it as they do the passport. They do not use it with the baby because they don't know how. So you are giving them the kit, but you are not helping them," McDonnough-Foster said.
"We are concerned with the affective domain. It is the part of the education system that is failing."
McDonnough-Foster further added that young children's brains are wired to learn through socio-emotional experiences, and so emphasis needs to be placed on the important stage of children's lives.
"The world is getting more and more aware of the brain development for the birth to three age group, but we in Jamaica, we don't really focus, we don't really practise early stimulation. It is not encouraged, because when I speak about early stimulation, it is not a lot of persons who advocate for that. They will say when the child is ready," she continued.
As a result of their passion for education at the early stage, the two specialist teachers were selected to represent Jamaica at the Global Leaders for Young Children Forum last year.
The aim of the Global Leaders initiative is to develop and train strong early childhood advocates from different regions of the world.
"We really are passionate about children, and we really do see where it has to be a case where you are employing things that work for the betterment of children understanding how children develop," she added.
From the conference, the two have implemented 'Connect with your Baby', a project on brain development from birth to age three, in order to raise awareness.
"We wanted to make the project as culturally relevant and appealing as possible. But we also wanted to stay true to what we believe is an important aspect of advocacy: explaining and informing people so they can make clearer decisions about how they view their babies or interact with them," Wilmot explained.
As part of the project, McDonnough-Foster and Wilmot host workshops for parents in different communities to educate them on how to care for their babies.