Christopher Thomas, Gleaner Writer
Former Jamaica Teachers' Association President Ruel Reid wants the Ministry of Education and parents to place special emphasis on the physical and mental development of children in the zero to three age group.
Reid made the point while giving the keynote address at the 15th annual East Central St James Grade Six Achievement Test scholarship awards ceremony, which was held at the Montego Bay Civic Centre in St James on Sunday.
"We must deal effectively in stemming poor parenting and people having children that they cannot take care of," said Reid. "The facts are that we have 50 per cent of our children who are not ready for primary school ... . The Education Task Force Report of 2004 said of that 50 per cent, 24 per cent have serious cognitive deficiencies."
Reid continued: "How many prenatal (pregnant) mothers are inhaling noxious fuels and toxic materials, and what is the environment in which they are growing the foetus?
"Are they out at night taking drugs, smoking, and drinking alcohol in excess? ... Are they having proper nutrition? ... All of this affects the brain, the cognitive development of the child, when the child is born."
The educator, who is the principal of Jamaica College, also noted that parents' interaction with their children affects the children's learning capabilities.
"While we attempt to deal with early childhood at ages three to eight, we need to educate people who want to have children that if you want your children to do well, you have to make sure you lay the foundation right, that you grow them in a healthy environment, that you are stimulating their brain, that you are giving them love, and that you are encouraging and supporting them on this education journey," added Reid.