In the effort to further mould and enrich the lives of Jamaicans from an early age, the Jamaica 4-H Movement has developed another arm – the Cubbies Programme.
The programme seeks to give children between the ages of five and eight an avenue to participate in activities, which foster growth and development during their formative years.
“The Cubbies Programme, is to bring youngsters into the 4-H Movement as early as five years of age, down from the traditional age of nine, so we have widened the net and added a new dimension to the 4-H programme,” says Executive Director of the Jamaica 4-H Club, Lenworth Fulton, in an interview with JIS News.
Members of the Cubbies Programme of the Jamaica 4-H Movement display some of their exhibits at the Kingston 4-H Parish Achievement Day at Tarrant High School in Kingston.
He explains that the underlying principle for the establishment of this wing of the programme, is to collaborate with the Government in the drive to further develop early childhood education throughout the island.
“The rationale is that the Government has a policy to further develop early childhood education. The cubbies also need to be brought into the learning scenario and to do things like identifying plants, farm animals and seeds; knowing simple things about the environment, agriculture, animal care and animal health,” Mr. Fulton says.
“From the Home Economics and the Healthy Lifestyle side, they need to know healthy foods and healthy habits, so as to avoid drugs and alcohol,” he adds.
At present, the Executive Director says the programme hosts about 2,000 members across the island, adding that some parishes are much stronger than others. “The Movement aspires to have 5,000 cubbies islandwide in the first two to three years of the programme,” he tells JIS News.
Mr. Fulton says the programme will move into high gear during this financial year, in an effort to officially include the Cubbies in all the activities of the 4-H Club.
“We aim to get a set of youngsters who know about the 4-H club from the early childhood stage and to carry through to the primary, to the high and secondary levels and through to college, so we begin from as early as we can,” he adds.
The programme, he says, is an ideal avenue for the youngsters, as the 4-H Movement is the only one of its kind in Jamaica, which offers an area where children below the age of nine are able to participate at the national level.
“The Cubbies cannot participate in the wider school system, so we are using the programme as a medium to integrate them early, so that the shock is lessened as they move on. When they participate in a Parish Achievement Day, they are coming to a place where, sometimes secondary, primary and all-age schools are gathering at one school to display. They also have their little room to display and so they have a first hand knowledge of a high school, how it looks and how children behave other than in sports,” he says.
Mr. Fulton says the response of the young participants has been tremendous and they are ecstatic whenever they participate in the activities which the club undertakes.
He stresses that there cannot be a good education system, unless children are allowed to take part in other activities, besides those in the classrooms. “We can’t pen them up in a school all the time,” he says, noting that the 4-H Movement has allowed the children to participate in activities which are quite the opposite.
“The Jamaica 4-H Club puts on about 45 to 50 events per year and many of these will be suitable for these students. Teachers will take a bus with them and they will come and participate until about two or three o’clock, and whenever they get tired, you take them back home. They can come and enjoy themselves and see a lot of things,” he says, emphasising that at this stage they learn more by seeing than by actually writing on the blackboard.
Mr. Fulton tells JIS News that the programme allows children to be conscious of the environment and factors which contribute to their lives. It also allows them to participate in activities, which teach them to become responsible for their actions.
He points out that engaging children in activities from early is a collective approach and as a result, parents have a responsibility to ensure that the early childhood institutions which their children attend have activities, such as the Cubbies Programme, “so they can partake in them, besides the basic ABCD activities.”
“It is not too early for the children to place a bean, a seed or a pea grain into an orange juice box and when it comes up, they can label it and watch it grow and put those beans in the Sunday pot and tell their parents that they can eat what they grow,” Mr. Fulton points out.
This, he says, will bring a sense of achievement, and ties in perfectly with the main intention of the programme, which looks at the broader picture of creating a better Jamaica. “We build a better Jamaica, we will have a more peaceful society, if we bend the children from an early age and remember they are not to be bent and trained by the whip, they are to be trained by programmes like what the 4-H Club is developing,” he adds.
The Jamaica 4-H Club is one of the leading youth training organisations in Jamaica. It was formed on April 1, 1940, with the objective of moulding the lives of young individuals between nine and 25 years of age, and getting them integrally involved in agriculture, home-making, leadership, the environment and information technology.
Activities include: the school gardening programme; the goat and heifer revolving programme, the healthy lifestyle programme, the environmental programme, the renewable energy programme, cake baking and cake decorating, sewing and garment construction, plant preparation, budding, poultry, citrus planting and bee-keeping.
Mr. Fulton also notes that there are tractor driving and maintenance and home economics programmes at the training centre at Denbigh in Clarendon, for persons over 18 years, which allow persons to become certified after successfully completing the courses.