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Education Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, said he will be introducing the National Parenting legislation for debate next Tuesday (September 11), when the House of Representatives resumes sittings after the summer break.

The legislation provides for the establishment of a parenting commission, which will have responsibility to, among other things, advise the Minister of Education, and lead the implementation of the National Parenting Support Policy.

The Education Minister said the legislation, which was developed by the previous administration, “is so crucial that it needs everybody’s attention."

“I am hoping, fully recognizing that laws don’t change human behaviour automatically, that we can, through this new legislation, set standards, and set up a parenting commission and offer help as well as some serious considerations for parents to be more responsible and more effective with regards to their children,” he stated.

He was speaking at a motivational breakfast for early childhood educators hosted by Barita Education Foundation on September 5 at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in New Kingston.

The Education Minister, in the meantime, applauded Barita's involvement in the early childhood education sector, stating that “this is exactly the kind of partnership that the island’s education system needs."

The Minister told guests that early childhood education has always been the ‘Cinderella’ of the education system, receiving just four per cent of the total education budget while 20 per cent is spent on remedial education.

"It’s a shame, for example, that we pay our early childhood teachers less than we do teachers at other levels of the profession, because we need, in fact, the most advanced professionals at that level. But to change that around, it’s going to mean lots of people having to make an adjustment because we are dealing with a finite body of resources,” Rev. Thwaites said.

He noted however that things are changing. He said the Ministry is trying to see how best to transform many basic schools across the island into infant departments of primary schools. "The purpose is to move (them) from keep and care to a real foundation for education,” the Minister said.

In the meantime, Chairman of Barita Investment Limited, Rita Humphries-Lewin, said that the breakfast was to show appreciation to the teachers and celebrate their efforts.

She informed that the company’s support of education programmes began over 20 years ago with a school-feeding programme, which developed into a teaching programme and then the launch of the Barita Education Foundation in 2004.

Mrs. Humphries-Lewin explained that Barita gives maximum support to early childhood education, “because we believe that it is the only way to effectively change our nation”.

She noted that unless the child gets the basic foundation between the ages of 3-8 years, they will be lost forever and remedial intervention thereafter is a waste of time and money.

Held under the theme: ‘Motivating the Early Childhood Practitioner’, the event saw outstanding performances from students of the Regent Street Seventh Day Adventist Early Childhood Development Centre and the Holy Trinity Basic School. Among the guests were several outstanding educators including Executive Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission, Dr. Maureen Samms-Vaughan, who brought greetings.

The Barita Education Fund is a charitable organisation committed to improving literacy and numeracy at the early childhood level in Jamaica.

The Foundation focuses on children ages three to six years old, attending basic schools in at-risk communities in Kingston. Since its launch, the BEF has worked with 26 institutions, where over 10,000 children have been taught foundation skills in literacy and numeracy, 312 teachers have been trained and parenting skills of over 850 parents have been enhanced. It also establishes a ‘model’ classroom in each school, providing a stimulating and conducive learning environment with interest centres for literacy and mathematics development.