FIVE months ago, Monique Bramwell realised that she had a sweet deal. Not only was her newborn admitted to a stellar early childhood institution (ECI), but she would also be right across the corridor.
“It’s been great to be able to see her throughout the day. I was able to pop in from my K3 class and even breastfeed. My mind was eased that this was available for us,” said Bramwell, an assistant teacher at the National Commercial Bank Jamaica Limited (NCBJ) Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC).
NCBJ operated the ECDC for the children of staff members for 39 years before being among the first ECIs registered when the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) started certification in 2016.
Bramwell and her now nine-month-old daughter Azalea have the run of the one-and-a-half-acre property in New Kingston. As a teacher trained at the Mico University College, Bramwell has daily oversight of the five year olds in her kindergarten class. She joined the staff complement of 28 in January 2022 to care for 144 babies, toddlers and children. The children, up to age nine, are also enrolled in aftercare.
For second-time mom Miesha Morgan, the teaching staff is superb and a great asset.
“The aunties (assistant teachers) are easy to talk to and accessible. We receive reports on their progress and even get pictures of the babies during their day,” said Morgan who has been employed to NCBJ for 18 years.
Her now 15-year-old daughter Zaria grew up in the arms of the aunties from three months until 11 years. Now her two-year-old son Zaccai has attended the ECDC for almost a year and a half.
Morgan recounts that her daughter’s first words were of a special someone at the ECI.
“It was ‘Pat’, her favourite auntie,” Morgan revealed. “I know nothing about potty training any of my children, the ECDC did that. The staff is doting and I know that my children are safe and learning. It gives me peace of mind.”
World-class child care
Donna-Marie Nevin, facilities administrator for NCBJ’s Group Human Resources and Facilities Division, said the ECDC was created for one purpose.
“We are here to provide our staff with world-class child care, so they can focus on their performance whilst their children are safely cared for and educated,” Nevin explained.
The standard set for the staff at ECDC is quite exacting. All the staff, including teachers, assistant teachers, chefs and cleaners have training in paediatric first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation, food handlers, child protection, public health and special needs care.
The ECI employs staff with level-three certification from the HEART Trust/NSTA as well as two qualified teachers with Bachelor of Education degrees.
For her role as the coordinator of the functions and features at the ECDC, Nevin has amassed academic qualifications including a Master of Education degree in Leadership in Early Childhood, a Master of Science degree in Public Service Management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and Sociology.
As an assistant teacher since 2012, Karen Prince had first-row seat to the ECC certification programme implemented in 2016.
“We were all invested in upgrading all the aspects, from ourselves (with the background checks and training); teacher-to-children ratio and to the physical structure, including the play areas,” Prince shared.
After all, play is essential for the children and the teachers, who all enjoy the circle time (interactive teaching). The ECDC’s sprawling property has three primary play zones with swings, see-saws, jungle gyms and slides. The children also have the chance to sit outside under the blanketing cover of mature mango trees, and the watchful gazes of their “aunties”.
All that hard work has paid off with the smiles of the children and the pride of their parents.
“We pour into our children emotionally, socially and even spiritually from the earliest age. It just gives us great pleasure to see them develop and go to high school. When we see them come back, it just warms our hearts,” Prince beamed.