THE PLANNED expansion and upgrade of New Town Early Childhood Institution in St Elizabeth is one more step towards improving the quality of education for young Jamaicans in the area.
The project is being tackled under the Community Investment Programme, which is implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) and funded by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the Government of Jamaica. Forty-seven students and four members of staff of the institution are the direct beneficiaries.
Last Thursday, the JSIF signed the contract for the project with sponsors New Town Early Childhood Institution Board at the United Pentecostal Church in Black River, St Elizabeth. Project implementation is expected to last for a maximum of four months.
Celia Dillon, project manager of JSIF's Basic Needs Trust Fund and Community Investment Programme, said the project was necessary as the present facilities were unsafe.
"The current building is dilapidated, a risk to the children's health who attend, due to the poor ventilation; does not provide adequate space for the display of educational and indoor play equipment, and is missing a sick bay and designated dining area. If the school is to maintain its status as a certified early childhood institution, it will need to satisfy these criteria," she said.
It is reported that a number of children are turned away each school year because of limited space and substandard facilities. The new building will address the space concerns as well.
The project is estimated at $20 million. Under the agreement, JSIF will contribute $19 million and the community will contribute the remaining $1,495,000, in either cash or kind.
The construction of the new facility will include four classrooms, a kitchen, sick bay, administrative area, sanitary facilities, a sewer and drainage system and fencing of the immediate school area.
Dillon said the project implementation is expected to last no more than four months, and although the direct beneficiaries were the students and staff, there would be extended benefits for the entire community as well.
"An investment in early childhood education can be considered a catalyst in changing the educational landscape within the community. This applies directly to New Town where research shows that 55.5 per cent of household heads revealed that they have no academic qualifications.
A correlation has been noticed between the lack of academic qualifications and employability. Even though 66 per cent of the population is employed, only 19.35 per cent of them are professionals," Dillon said.
Work for the project has already started.
- Launtia Cuff