To further develop the early childhood sector and to celebrate Jamaica's 50th year of Independence, the Churches Co-operative Credit Union (CCCU) will be donating $50,000 to 50 basic schools across the island through its 50/50 Jamaica Campaign.
The funds, which amount to some $2.5 million, will go toward infrastructural development as well as the purchase of equipment and other teaching aids at the schools.
The announcement was made Thursday May 31st, during the launch of the two-month campaign, held at the Wyndham Kingston Hotel, in New Kingston.
Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, who was guest speaker at the event, lauded the organisation for its "generosity" as well as its focus on early childhood education.
He noted that the move by the credit union is also in line with the government’s thrust to develop the early childhood sector.
Rev. Thwaites informed that in a bid to improve the sector, the government will be moving to merge most of the informal basic schools into the government system.
"We have about 3,000 basic schools in Jamaica. Most of them are in the informal sector of the economy. It is our policy to try and merge as many of these as possible into infant schools, which will allow the State to have a higher level of responsibility for and accountability to our children,” he said.
The Minister said this will help to improve the service offered at that level, to ensure better performance from the students when they get to the primary and high school levels.
“In looking at the state of our educational enterprise in Jamaica, I believe that emphasis should be put on early childhood education,” Rev. Thwaites argued, noting that it is critical to set a firm foundation for Jamaica’s students.
“If you start out right, they will turn out bright. If we emphasise and do right in the early childhood sector, then much of the limited mediocre outcomes at other levels of the education system will be taken care of,” the Minister pointed out.
The Minister lamented the fact that Jamaica currently spends as much as $20 billion annually on remedial learning. He argued that if just a fraction of this money could be spent on developing the early childhood sector, then there would be less need for remedial learning.
In the meantime, Manager, Marketing and Communications, at CCCU, Juven Montague-Anderson, noted that the campaign, which is being organised in collaboration with the Jamaica Observer Limited, will support nation building and foster the spirit of civic pride, as the nation celebrates 50 years of independence.
She informed that the initiative will also see the organisation executing a number of community development projects and social outreach activities for this year. The campaign will also pay special attention to the development of entrepreneurship.
“We recognise the importance in laying a strong foundation for learning at the primary, secondary, tertiary and professional levels. We also see entrepreneurship and education as critical factors in nation building,” Mrs. Montague-Anderson said.
The campaign, which will be held under the theme: ‘Past, Promise, Possibilities a brighter Future’, will also host a national essay competition open to persons between the ages of 18 to 25 years, commencing from June 1 to July 16. Entrants will be asked to write on the topic, ‘What Jamaica means to me’. The winner of the essay competition will be announced in August and will receive $50,000.
Additionally, Mrs. Montague-Anderson said the credit union will also officially kick start its 50-day countdown to Independence Day on August 6.
During the countdown, CCCU branches islandwide will host daily product promotions and give-a-ways for all its members. The organisation will also host its ‘Emancipation Park Explosion’ on August 18 at the Emancipation Park, in New Kingston.
Mrs. Montague-Anderson said the event will include “several exciting activities,” such as micro and small business workshops and a small business expo. She said this is keeping with the organisations mandate to promote and support entrepreneurship.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter