ST JAMES, Jamaica — Alarmed by reports of child abuse at the New Discoveries Daycare and Preschool in St James, Councillor Kerry Thomas (People’s National Party, Mount Salem Division) is calling for additional measures to be put in place to regulate those seeking certification to operate early childhood institutions.
“I don’t think we have been going through the right process in ensuring that these schools are up to the required standard and that the people working in them are of good standards before granting licenses,” Thomas told OBSERVER ONLINE on Monday.
The school, which can be found in the community of Catherine Mount, is located in Thomas’ Division.
The New Discoveries Daycare and Preschool was ordered closed by Minister of Education and Youth Fayval Williams last Friday, a day after videos emerged on social media platforms showing an adult worker beating a child. In the video, which is said to have been leaked by a former employee of the institution, the adult was seen using a ruler to beat a young boy as they both stood inside a bathroom. A young girl was also seen lying on the floor beside a toilet in the video that was posted.
Thomas told OBSERVER ONLINE that residents had previously called to share their concerns about this school. He, however, maintained that he was unaware of the suspected cases of child abuse as their reports were strictly about public health and noise pollution concerns.
“I was aware of the premises and I had a complaint from a resident that we were investigating regarding some other issues. It was more from a public health perspective and the noise within the community,” the councillor said.
Thomas said he believes a shortage of preschools in St James has encouraged people with ill intentions to seek ways to acquire licenses and operate their institutions. He went on to state that this shortage of early childhood institutions in some communities has also brought a high level of desperation from parents who choose to enrol their children in these preschools.
“We have to acknowledge that there is a shortage of institutions that cater to the younger children in our communities and because of that, it gives rise to all of these impromptu schools that are popping up all over,” he said.
He continued, “So the truth is that because of the lack of proper institutions and facilities to serve the needs of our communities and all of these impromptu places, we are seeing them in the media for mistreating kids who are very vulnerable.”
“It is obvious that some people need to be properly trained to deal with kids. This is a time when we are faced with various types of challenges in our educational system and we need to train competent people to deal with our children. If you don’t have the right people working with our children, you will get results like these,” Thomas told OBSERVER ONLINE.
A release by the Early Childhood Commission noted that the children of the institution will be relocated to other early childhood institutions and that a meeting has been scheduled to discuss the matter further with the parents. It also stated that counselling sessions will be provided by The Early Childhood Commission and the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA).