Caribbean foundation to focus on early childhood development

The development of early childhood education in the Caribbean has been given a much needed boost with the launch of the Foundation for the Development of Carib-bean Children (FDCC) at a recent regional forum.

“We have succeeded in starting that fire,” Dr Didacus Jules, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the FDCC and Registrar of the Caribbean Examinations Council said.

The new foundation’s board comprises Chairman Dr Jules; Deputy Chairman Milton Lawrence of Domini-ca and directors Cuthbert Didier of St Lucia; Jennifer Astaphan of Dominica; Dr Jules Ferdinand of St Vincent and the Grenadines; Renee Anne Shirley of Jamaica; Dr Trevor Carmichael of Barbados; and Gregory DeGannes of Grenada.

According to a press release from he Caribbean Centre for Development Administration (CARICAD), the Board was constituted at its inaugural meeting which was held under the theme “Strengthening families from the Start.” The four-day forum discussed some of the latest information regarding the development of the brain and how it relates particularly in children ages zero to three years. “We need to do what we do in the Caribbean with greater passion,” Dr Jules said, adding that “Education is not business as usual and it cannot be. We need to approach it with imagination and fire so that we can succeed.”

Stakeholders and interest groups also made various presentations and roundtable discussions were lead by practitioners.

According to the release, the FDCC will build on 10 years of work and experiences garnered by the Caribbean Child Support Initiative (CCSI) Programme, which is headed by Programme Direc-tor Susan Branker. The work of the Roving Caregivers, a project supported by the CCSI, was examined and presented as a model to those nations contemplating the development of targeted early childhood services for the most disadvantaged families. This model was presented because it is not capital intensive and can be implemented without the need for new buildings and use materials parents already have at their disposal.

Field visits were also made to some of the areas where the Roving Caregivers and Early Childhood Health Outreach programmes operate. “The whole importance of the strategy is predicated on play and stimulation so that the child can explore… We need to liberate the natural spirit of inquiry and discovery that every child has,” Dr Jules said.

The Roving Caregivers visit various communities and work with children and parents in their homes, many of whom are economically disadvantaged, and demonstrate to parents/guardians how to encourage their children’s curiosity using simple materials and items that they already possess.

The FDCC also has support and commitment from the Bernard van Leer Founda-tion (BvLF) which has been assisting in the Caribbean for the past 40 years. BvLF Executive Director Lisa Jordan said the fact that 25-30% of Caribbean children do not have the cognitive building blocks they need when they start school is reason enough for her foundation to support the indigenous foundation. “We have the evidence, we have the data,” she said, adding, “and we know that it works for the children so it’s very easy for us to sell.”

The foundation is expecting additional support to come from the business sector. To this end, every Board member has made financial pledges to get the work off to a start while the Government of Dominica has already made a token pledge of US$500.00.

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