JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The early childhood education system is benefitting from a $50 million development project dubbed ‘Project Sprout’.
  • The project is being funded by the Sandals Foundation.
  • Project Sprout provides intervention at the institutions that are in need of support, and ultimately prepare the students for primary level education.

The early childhood education system is benefitting from a $50 million development project dubbed ‘Project Sprout’.

Under the project, which is being funded by the Sandals Foundation, with input from several Government agencies, schools benefit from infrastructure upgrades; teaching and learning aids including books, computers and educational toys; and human resources such as subject specialists, and social workers.

The project was first implemented at the Westmoreland-based Culloden Early Childhood Institute (ECI) in September 2013. Preliminary works have begun at a number of other institutions, involving staff training and attention to other needs.

These schools include West End ECI, in Westmoreland, Seville Golden Pre-School, in St. Ann, and the Leonora Basic School, in St. James, all of which will receive support over three years, under the project.

Project Sprout provides intervention at the institutions that are in need of support, and ultimately prepare the students for primary level education by providing individual attention for children who show developmental delays.

Parents are encouraged to be closely involved in their children’s education, and receive encouragement through personal development and vocational training, as well as home support.

To assist parents with providing adequate nutrition for their children, the Sandals Foundation has provided 26,000 square feet of space for four greenhouses, to implement agricultural production for Project Sprout. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries will provide institutional support.

This sub-project will utilise greenhouse technology to supply school canteens, and markets. As a result, it is expected that more employment will be available for the communities where the schools are located.

Minister of Education, Rev. Ronald Thwaites, says Project Sprout is a model for a multi-sectoral approach to giving children a sound start. “The Ministry endorses the key features,” he stated while addressing the recent official launch of the project at the Eden Gardens Resort and Spa, in St. Andrew.

“The hiring of social workers to provide specialist support and (the) linkage with parents is of great significance,” the Minister said, adding that the National Parenting Commission (NPC) is available to the Sprout scheme, and other early childhood providers.

“So that the vital and integral link between the schools and parents can be supported…the connectivity with parenting education, and the engagement in productive enterprise, which the Sprout exercise has assailed, is of great importance,” Minister Thwaites told his audience.

He called on parents and teachers to make the “most of the training and the other quality inputs” that the initiative is offering, noting that the “expansion of the programme depends on how well it is received in the initial schools.”

Another endorsement for the initiative came from Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission (ECI), Dr. Maureen Samms-Vaughan, who said its success should facilitate better exams results, and result in less emotional issues for children.

President of the Sandals Foundation, Adam Stewart, said the group, during its five years, has completed over 300 projects; built four schools; and built and improved a number of community centres.

“We started out focusing on education, the environment and community, but we have fallen in love with education and communities,” Mr. Stewart said.

Chairman of the Digicel Foundation, Lisa Lewis, endorsed the project, declaring it as a collaboration to develop the nation, and advance Vision 2030, by equipping the early childhood sector, as well as enabling the schools to learn new agro-techniques, and earn from it.

“These structures are sustainable economic enterprises which represent a way for schools to increase their resources, educate the next generation about how to use technology in agriculture, and also off-set their operational expenses,” Miss Lewis said.   Project Sprout partners include the Ministry of Education, Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL), HEART/NTA, the Early Childhood Commission, the National Parent Teachers Association of Jamaica (NPTA), Digicel Foundation, and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).

The Sandals Foundation funds educational, environmental and community projects across the Caribbean, with 100 per cent of the monies contributed by the general public.