$11 Million Boost for Early Childhood and Special Education

The Ministry of Education has earmarked some $11 billion to boost provisions for early childhood and special education institutions islandwide.

Portfolio Minister, the Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, who made the disclosure during his Sectoral presentation in Parliament on Wednesday, May 15, said the allocation, which represents 14.6 per cent of the Ministry’s recurrent budget, is aimed at ensuring the provision of adequate resources aimed at enhancing the learning capacity of the pupils enrolled at these institutions.

Activities, which will be undertaken at the early childhood level this year, include commencement of the process of merging an average of three basic schools into some 179 primary schools identified with space to accommodate infant departments. This, he explained, is being undertaken on the basis of proximity, availability of trained teachers, and whether the basic schools are deemed “unviable”.

Meanwhile, the Minister advised that philanthropic organization, Food for the Poor, will continue construction, equipping and staffing of the 50 early childhood institutions, earmarked for development.

Rev. Thwaites also announced that specialist training is to be provided for some 500 early childhood and special education teachers, currently in the system, deemed to be “under-employed”.

Additionally, he said the Ministry will also make an increased provision of $122 million available for the allocation of nutrition grants to basic schools.

“We aim to offer a breakfast snack as well as lunch. The plan is to use local fruits and produce in increasing proportions. The pilot for this project will target Corporate Area schools in September and will be expanded to other regions. If we follow this pattern, the result will be an early childhood sector which is better equipped with appropriately trained teachers and better nutrition,” the Minister contended.

Rev. Thwaites said provisions for special education institutions this year will include: the training of 400 teachers to diagnose cognitive social and personal challenges among students; and establishing three new diagnostic and treatment centres.

“They will be situated at Church Teachers’ College in Mandeville; Sam Sharpe teachers’ College in Montego Bay; and the College of Agriculture, Science and Education (CASE) in Portland, each with appropriate staffing and training facilities for special education teachers,” Rev. Thwaites informed.

Contact: Douglas McIntosh

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