JIS News

The World Bank has granted US$500,000 to the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), to facilitate an 18-month research project into the country’s early childhood sector.
At a press conference held yesterday (March 29) at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston, Executive Chairman of the ECC, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughn, informed that the grant was facilitated through the Japanese government.
She noted that the research, which was underway, would look into a number of areas including teacher training, parenting and financial needs of the sector. The information garnered, she said, “will allow us to better plan for development of the sector.”
She informed that “like many other World Bank-funded projects, the grant was preparatory to the consideration of a loan agreement.”
The press conference, which provided an update on developments within the early childhood sector, brought to the fore, the mandatory registration requirement for early childhood institutions, which is slated to come on stream later this year.
Though not able to give the exact date of the commencement of the registration process, which is a requirement under the Early Childhood Act, Professor Samms-Vaughn said that the Enhancement of Basic Schools Project was undertaking a public education campaign to sensitize early childhood development practitioners, parents and school boards, about the new standards that will govern the sector.
She informed that to date, more than 180 workshops have been held across the island with the various stakeholders. She said that although some stakeholders have expressed concerns, particularly as they related to meeting the requirements before registration, they have given their support of the standards, which are aimed at providing equitable services for children, from birth to six years-old.
She indicated that institutions would be given time-frames to meet the standards, based on individual need.
“We are starting a process; we are not expecting that we are going to meet these standards in a very short time, but what we expect is that we will be moving towards them overtime,” Professor Samms-Vaughn pointed out.
Outlining the registration process, she explained that “as soon as the early childhood regulations and Act are signed into law, within 90 days, all early childhood institutions are expected to apply for registration; once they have applied for registration they will be given a date for the inspection process.” The Executive Chairman noted that there were three possible outcomes on inspection – the institution could be deemed fit and ready for registration; be given time to meet the stated requirements; or be recommended for closure due to its poor status.
“Where the (institutions) meets all the requirements, a certificate of registration will be issued.if an institution does not meet all the requirements but is not a clear and present danger to the children, then that institution would be issued with a permit to operate and would be given a time line to improve,” she detailed, noting that where the children “are in clear and present danger,” a recommendation for the institution to be closed will be made to the Minister of Education and Youth.
Noting that the operators and early childhood practitioners need not be fearful of the process, Professor Samms-Vaughn said that the ECC would be assisting the schools to meet the standards.
The 12 standards, which early childhood institutions are required to meet are: having trained staff; well developed educational programmes; staff must have good interactions with the children; spacious physical environment; safe indoor and outdoor play equipment; must meet universal health standards; have proper nutritional plans; have fire and disaster safety plans; must protect the rights of children; must ensure adequate interaction with parents; have sound administrative management practices and practice sound financial principles.