Season’s Greetings to you all! This holiday season is indeed a special one, as it marks the end of two decades, since the turn of the 21st century. I’m certain that many of us may be reflecting on how life has changed for us over the past twenty years. If you are a working person, perhaps you are thinking about the ways that your career has progressed through these years. If you are a parent, you must be amazed at how quickly your child has gone from being a small, curious toddler to a young adult during their university studies or work activities. And for all of us Guyanese, we are surely reflecting on the growth and evolution that our country has undergone since the year 2000. We as a nation have seen so much, learned so much, and overcome the various growing pains that come with inevitable change that we too must be in awe of our achievements despite the naysayers. As we approach 2020, let us be proud of how much we have been able to achieve, and at the same time, aspire for greater breakthroughs and milestones in the years to come even as the Coalition Government embarks on its Decade of Development that will seek to transform this nation at all levels.
Therefore, it gives me great pleasure to be here with you today to declare the beginning of a yet another milestone for our nation—the establishment of Guyana’s very first Early Childhood Centre of Excellence!
This Early Childhood Centre of Excellence funded jointly by the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Caribbean Development Bank, through Basic Needs Trust Fund Guyana, will stand as a model institution for service delivery and development of early childhood education.
While it is not the first such centre that has been established by the BNTF – 6 centres were established in the 7th and 8th project cycles – this Centre of Excellence which will be established in the 9th cycle will be at the helm; guiding the direction and standards of early childhood education nationwide. A Centre of Excellence is unique in that it not only contains a facility for our children to grow and thrive in a safe environment conducive to learning, but it will also function as a research facility, where early childhood education scholars can come together to conduct studies and further develop good practices. It will serve as a hub and resource centre for other early childhood education practitioners to gain knowledge and advice from experts in the field.
Once established, this Centre will become a flagship laboratory school under the University of West Indies Open Campus (UWI OC) Early Childhood Centres of Excellence Company, as formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding between UWI and the University of Guyana. The Company, also known as BLOOM, has established Centres of Excellence in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. These laboratory preschools employ holistic education methods while creating a nurturing and engaging atmosphere for the students enrolled there. With University of Guyana’s Centre now joining these prestigious ranks, Guyana will also be able to build upon its cultural power and realm of influence throughout the Caribbean.
According to the World Bank, far too few children worldwide, especially those from the poorest families, have the option to enroll in high quality early childhood programmes. And many experts have emphasised that investing in children’s development during the first eight years of their life is critical for their school, life success and productivity. Until the establishment of the Early Childhood Development Centres under BNTF, there was only one state-owned day care centre, and, apart from the services offered by the Mayor and Councillors of the City of Georgetown, services for infants up to the age of three remained largely in the private sector and in the hands of untrained individuals. It is critically important then, that we, as a nation, invest more in early childhood education, to ensure that all children of a certain age have access to these crucial services.
The Centre of Excellence will therefore prove a truly worthwhile investment, with 120 million dollars allocated for the construction of the centre. The building will span 7,624 square feet and contain enough classrooms to accommodate 120 infants and toddlers, along with an observation room, conference room, and research spaces. At least 20 adults will gain employment there and learn to become better early childhood practitioners themselves. Professional development opportunities abound in such a space, with the Centre producing capable individuals to contribute to Guyana’s skilled labour force.
As 2020 swiftly approaches, let one of our goals be to build an “Education Nation,” a country that emphasizes quality at each stage of the education process, from the services catering to the youngest of our population, all the way up to continuing education for adults. Learning should be an unceasing process throughout our lives, but how it starts in the early years of a child’s development is particularly crucial: it will dictate the kind of adults they become, and, in turn, determine the future of our great nation.
With that, I would like to once again commend this wonderful initiative and wish you all a joyful holiday season! Thank you.