17 early-childhood institutions certified
After years of trying to fulfil the requirements, 17 of Jamaica's approximately 2,700 early-childhood institutions received their certificate of registration last Thursday in a ceremony at Riu Hotel in Mammee Bay, St Ann.
Seven of the schools are in St James, six in St Andrew, two in Westmoreland and one each in Hanover and St Ann.
Keynote speaker Floyd Green, state minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, addressed the issue of the difficulty facing institutions struggling to meet the criteria.
"I know that when the standards came out, people said we'll never be able to reach them, that some of the requirements are unreasonable; it is supposed to be difficult, because you are dealing with the most vulnerable among our children," Green said.
Among the requirements is that persons who work in the early-childhood sector must submit a police record, and this "is so that we know who are working around our children," Green pointed out.
Green said only the early-childhood sector is affected by this requirement and suggested that it's time to have this requirement implemented at every level of the educational system.
The occasion was a momentous one for representatives of the schools, with both the executive director of the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), Dr Joan Reid, and board Chairman Trisha Williams-Singh hailing the occasion as a great day.
"I am sure you are proud that you have done it," Reid said. "Some no doubt would have made great sacrifices for such a time as this, Please feel proud that you are doing it not for yourselves but for our children, the nation and the future."
Reid said there are approximately 2,700 early-childhood institutions on record at the ECC, with about 2,500 applying for registration.
Pattern of excellence
Opposition Spokesman on Education Ronald Thwaites praised the work of the ECC, and expressed the hope "that this can be the pattern of excellence that continues in our early-chidhood sector. By far, this is the most important segment of the educational enterprise".
Meanwhile, Devon Evans, chairman of the St Ann Early Childhood Parish Board and vice-president, Jamaica Early Childhood Association, while hailing the schools that have been certified, again questioned the rigidness of the qualifying standards.
Evans questioned why the sector that gets the least financial assistance has the most to do to become qualified for registration.
"It took us 13 years before one early-childhood institution could be ceritified in Jamaica; we saw from earlier on that the measures are too stringent," Evans pointed out.