The 160-year-old Bethlehem Moravian College (BMC), in St. Elizabeth, has opened a state-of-the-art centre for the teaching of early-childhood education.
The Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund as part of its mandate to support the nation’s education sector provided the $40.3-million for the construction of the Bethlehem Moravian College Early Childhood Centre of Excellence.
This facility boasts three classrooms, a training laboratory/demonstration room for student teachers, bathroom facilities, an office, kitchen and dining area.
“For several years, the Board of Management recognised the need for improvement in the College’s physical structure, but limited financial resources prevented us from embarking on any major development. Our belief that the environment within which teaching and learning takes place impacts a student’s performance led us to seek the assistance of CHASE Fund for this project,” Chairman of the BMC’s Board of Management and attorney-at-law Lowel G. Morgan, tells JIS News.
Mr. Morgan highlights that BMC is a major player in the tertiary-education sector in southwest Jamaica. Therefore, the establishment of its early-childhood centre, which is accessible to all early-childhood institutions in neighbouring parishes, will advance current and future educational output.
Formerly Bethlehem Teacher Training College, the BMC, located in Malvern, grants bachelor’s degrees in primary and secondary education, business studies and hospitality and tourism management. It was founded in 1861 by the Jamaica Province of the Moravian Church and is currently celebrating its 160th anniversary.
“We envision that our students will not only take care of the new facilities but that we will see improvement in their academic performance. This project for us will improve the college’s operations, as the additional classroom spaces will allow for improved student amenities and greater flexibility in the timetabling of courses,” the BMC Chairman says.
Currently, there are 40 students enrolled at BMC who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in early-childhood education and will benefit greatly from the opening of the college’s early-childhood centre.
Acting Principal of the BMC, Dr. Andrea Wilson, recalls that work on the early-childhood centre started on January 11, 2021, and partnering with the CHASE Fund until its completion has been a pleasure.
“The CHASE Fund’s project consultant, Mr. Woodrow Whitely, provided timely and informative updates and the rest of the team was very professional and maintained an open communication channel. The contractors provided by them were also very professional and worked within the time frame and the stipulated budget,” she tells JIS News.
Dr. Wilson shares that the newly constructed early-childhood building has provided the needed space designated for the early-childhood groups of facilitators and students.
The classroom space that they formerly occupied via a lease agreement with the Moravian Church will provide space for other programmes/groups to utilise.
To oversee the operations of the early-childhood centre, the BMC has appointed a new Head of Department for Early Education who is tasked with the responsibility of building the department and engaging the community of Malvern and its surroundings.
“I am delighted to know that CHASE has been involved in providing marked improvement in the lives of stakeholders in the educational sphere, especially at the primary and early-childhood levels. I strongly believe that children in the early years need to receive quality education and to be comfortable in the educational milieu,” Dr. Wilson says.
She shares that the response from students, parents and staff to the construction of the facility has been tremendously positive, coupled with gratitude.
“From our stakeholders, you hear comments on how spaciousness and well designed the centre is and praises for the generosity of the CHASE Fund, because such a facility was long overdue at BMC,” Dr. Wilson notes.
“There is a sense of enthusiasm at the College because of this new building. The energy level is high. Through the construction of the early-childhood centre, the college can now host groups of students, staff, parents and teachers in concentrated/targeted professional developmental groups, geared specifically towards early-childhood education,” she says.
Dr. Wilson explains that as a part of the BMC community outreach thrust, members of the newly formed Early Childhood Education Department will concentrate on providing more assessment possibilities for students from primary and infant schools (locally and nationally), using the newly built early-childhood education centre.
Recalling the scope of work done, Dr. Wilson shares that roofing, wall finishes, ceiling finishes, flooring, installation of fixtures, furnishings, sanitary appliances, plumbing, electrical and fire alarm installations as well as drainage construction were carried out to create a comfortable learning environment.
“A stimulating environment must be created at the tertiary level as the teacher trainees must be exposed to and operate within the right environment. By so doing, they will receive the correct strategies and methodologies that will assist them to foster learning among their students,” she says.
“At the primary and early childhood levels, stimulating environments are critical to developing the needed skills, attitudes and abilities of children as they grapple with print and media-rich environments. This will lead to the improvement in students’ cognitive, psychosocial and emotional development,” the Principal argues.
She commends the group of facilitators who wrote the project proposal to the CHASE Fund seeking to secure the centre, including Head of Department 2 (HOD 2) Education, Michael Malcolm; Research Officer, Dr. Joan Llewellyn; Lecturer, Kadie-ann Daley-Salmon; Lecturer, Judy Thompson-Charoo; Lecturer, Jennifer Brown; Lecturer, Charmaine James-Miles and Computer Laboratory Technician, Lorenzo Montaque.
Dr. Wilson also lauds Mr. Morgan for his resolute stance and ongoing interest in the growth and development of Bethlehem Moravian College.
When asked about plans for the college, the Board Chairman shares that the College is seeking to close its 160th anniversary celebration by breaking ground for an auditorium to benefit not just Bethlehem Moravian College but also the wider community.
“On behalf of the Board of Management, staff, and students at the Bethlehem Moravian College, we express our sincere gratitude to the CHASE Fund for partnering with us to advance early-childhood education in St. Elizabeth. CHASE Fund’s construction of this building is not just a provision of classroom space but a facility that will impact how the nation’s young children are facilitated in the early years. We are all energised, and we look forward to improving the quality of education offered in early childhood,” Mr. Morgan tells JIS News.