Governor General Sir Patrick Allen on Tuesday declared 2022 The Year of Early Childhood Development and, alongide leaders in the education sector, vowed to improve the functioning and learning capabilities of young children whilst raising awareness about the initiatives put forward to enhance their developmental needs.
Speaking at the official ceremony commemorating the declaration, which was held at Union Gardens Infant School on Tuesday, chairman for the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) board of commissioners Trisha Williams-Singh said, “We are acknowledging and moving firmly with the mindset that what we pour into our children today will certainly be obvious tomorrow. We are steadfast in advocating for all children to have access to quality early childhood services because we know that it is through quality early childhood development that we will be able to foster ingenuity, creativity and many more skills needed to make Jamaica an island of pioneers and greatness.”
Throughout the year, the ECC will conduct several activities monthly, which will include February being deemed as Play Month to encourage physical activity among children; March focused on raising awareness about the first 1,000 days app, which is used to track developmental milestones of children; April for autism awareness and National Siblings Day; and May for the Professional Development Institute conference.
Meanwhile, Education and Youth Minister Fayval Williams explained that the declaration is significant as it affords the opportunity to highlight and bring greater awareness to the tremendous efforts being made by the ECC, which is to “enable every child to have the best chance to flourish in life, regardless of their family backgrounds and resources”.
Williams pointed out that with just over 15,700 children in public infant schools and 69,800 registered in public private basic schools, before the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, and just about 279 of the 2,662 early childhood institutions being certified according to the ECC's 12 standards, the education ministry has a big responsibility and mandate to cater to the developmental needs of Jamaican children.
In the meantime, Opposition Spokesperson on Education Dr Angela Brown Burke pointed out that with 93.4 per cent of Jamaican children between ages three and five in early childhood care, there is an urgent need to get all institutions operating at satisfactory levels and thus yielding satisfactory results.
“It is extremely important to ensure we are establishing and monitoring the standards that are required to achieve the full potential of our children at this age and a good job is being done by the ECC. We have to look at where the gaps are and therefore how we move those. What we also know is that we have a group of dedicated, passionate caregivers and teachers who have been nurturing and caring for our children and we want to encourage them and thank them for the work they are doing,” said Brown Burke.
— Brittny Hutchinson