APPROXIMATELY 133,000 children in early childhood institutions across Jamaica will have their l earning environments enhanced as each institution is slated to receive a standard kit of learning tools through the project Crayons Count.
The learning kits will have far more than just crayons. They include 13 learning tools in all — books, balls, blocks, play dough, kids scissors, paper, puppets, puzzles, manipulatives, paint, paint brushes and glue sticks.
The kits will be distributed this school term to the 2,700 early childhood institutions that have applied for registration with the Early Childhood Commission (ECC).
Deika Morrison, head of the non-government organisation Do Good Jamaica, which launched Crayons Count last February, expressed pleasure and gratitude at how the society has responded to the project.
"We had a lot of participation from the private sector and individuals who embraced this project and helped to increase awareness of the importance of early childhood education," she said.
Among the sponsors of Crayons Count are National Baking Company Ltd, which will be distributing the kits through its massive network of delivery trucks; the Digicel Foundation, Sandals Foundation, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, Scotiabank Foundation and the ICWI Foundation, all of which contributed in different ways.
Other companies such as Island Grill provided drop-off points for donations; Palace Amusement ran the public service announcement for free for over a month, and several media houses which provided free publicity for the project.
Morrison also thanked the United States Embassy which purchased 70 kits for institutions which provide students for several primary schools which the Embassy assists, as well as training for teachers in those institutions.
There were also donations from the diaspora through an online fund-raising effort.
Morrison explained that it is difficult to quantify the value of the project, but at a discounted price of $15,000 each, the 2,700 kits alone would cost $40.5 million.
"It's very substantial", she said, noting all the volunteer work that makes the effort possible.
Marketing Manager at National Baking Company Ann-Marie Walter-Allen said the company's participation in Crayons Count was in keeping with its philosophy of supporting the country's development.
"Anything we do charity-wise must be geared to national building, uplifting and dealing with children. We believe in investing in our country and in our future," she told the Jamaica Observer.
National Baking, the single largest donor to the campaign, bought 10 of the 13 items in the kit in sufficient quantities for all early childhood institutions across Jamaica.
Sonya Linton, brand and promotions manager at the baking company, noted that the company's staff has bought into the idea, physically packing the boxes with the kits during their lunchtime and days off.
"We're doing this as a family," she said of the volunteer effort.
In endorsing the project, Richard Williams, the ECC's manager of early childhood development services, said the kits will greatly assist in the learning process and help teachers with the management of their classrooms.
"The materials are colourful, age appropriate, dynamic and relevant and will encourage students to manipulate, share, discuss and investigate, which will enhance their critical thinking and analytical skills," he said.