Good Day. I am pleased to bring you this address for the 30th anniversary of child month.
This year as in years past for the entire month of June, the Early Childhood Development unit of the Ministry of Education will celebrate Child Month. Child Month is celebrated to appreciate our children and to recognize them as important and valued members of society. It is a time when all the citizens of the Federation, Parents and all are encouraged to focus on children.
This year 2014 marks 30 years since the inception of the Child Month celebrations, although the early childhood services enjoy a 40 year history in our Federation. We have become accustomed to seeing hundreds of children parade through the streets of Basseterre on the last Friday in June. The Family Food Fair in Independence Square is also a longstanding well-attended feature of child month. The Child Month Steering Committee also plans a Kiddies Costume Show, Zonal concerts and Sports days.
A theme is usually chosen to highlight the rights of children or to draw attention to matters affecting the welfare and needs of children. We can remember themes such as “Listen to the Children,” Act now ………… and “Children need Fathers too”. The theme usually encourages us to take action. This year the theme is different.
The organizers thought it was important to choose a theme to mark this significant milestone – 30 years of child month. It was felt that this year’s theme should cause us to reflect on what has happened over the years. Therefore the theme for this year is “Child Month at 30 – Reflecting on our achievements”. We are asked to pause, look back and focus on how far we have come.
This is a fitting theme for the Early Childhood Development Unit which is regarded as the leader in Early Childhood Education in the region. Just last week the Early Childhood Development Unit hosted a regional workshop at the Bird Rock Beach Hotel. It was a workshop on “Improving Access to Early Child Development Services.
Regional co-ordinators, directors and education officers from OECS countries were given the chance to visit several Early Childhood Centers on St. Kitts and Nevis, as it is widely known that we provide quality care and education to our nation’s youngest citizens. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our nursery workers and preschool teachers for their hard work and dedication to our children and their perseverance which has helped us to earn the label “Best Early Childhood Development Programme” in the Region.
It would be remiss of me if I did not focus on some of the remarkable achievement of the last 30 years. These include significant growth in service provision in St. Kitts and Nevis which moved from twelve (12) government centres in 1985 and 27 in 2014; Fifteen (15) new Government Centers have been built since 1995. Just last month a state of the art Early Childhood Centre was opened in St.Pauls. Funding was provided in a large part by the ROC on Taiwan – our partners in Education.
Other achievements over the last 30 years include: but are not limited to:
The introduction of the Associate Degree Programme at C.F.B.C. for pre-school teachers.
A Better Parenting Program
A Toy lending library
Reaching the unreached programme, to service children not enrolled in day care centres, who may be cared for by grandmothers.
Home to Nursery Transition Programme
A Nursery to Preschool Transition Programme
A Preschool to Kindergarten Transition Programme and of course a model ECD Programme which has resulted in professionals and practitioners from more than 10 Caribbean countries including the Bahamas, the Netherlands and Belize visiting to learn from us.
These achievements have been driven by a number of factors:
1. The ECD Policy and its Strategic Plans that provide a framework to ensure a holistic and integrated approach to the development of young children and the High Scope Curriculum
2. The ECD Mission Statement – “To Provide High Quality Care and Education to the Maximum Number of Children in their Early Years of life and to facilitate collaboration between and among the family, the community and those who are providing early childhood care and education in order to prepare our children them for school and life in general”
3. The passage of the Probation and Child Welfare Board Act which provides the legal framework for the regulation of child care services and makes provision for the registration and licensing of child care centres and for sanctions against persons who contravene the regulations.
4. Minimum Service Standards to regulate child care provision and the Regulatory process that includes licensing, monitoring and annual assessment.
These are all significant and historic accomplishments by a department that is run by only a few persons, but these persons have a passion for early childhood and genuinely love children and love their work. Let us commend the Director, her resource teachers and the office staff who co-ordinate and organize several training programmes, visit more than 100 centres and generally ensure that our children benefit from quality education, and that our centres meet minimum standards.
Let us all salute these educators and come out in our numbers to support the activities of the 2014 Child Month celebrations, as we celebrate the significant milestone of 30 years of achievement.