A $36.5 million Early Childhood Development Centre (ECDC), aimed at creating comprehensive learning space for children and generating employment for residents of Anna Catherina on the West Coast of Demerara, was commissioned yesterday.
Located along what is known as the Leonora Hospital Road, the new building was made possible through funding from the Basic Needs Trust Fund (BNTF) and the Government of Guyana.
Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, who delivered the feature address at the commissioning ceremony yesterday, explained that the facility aims to provide early childhood development services in Anna Catherina and surrounding communities, while allowing for underemployed young people to be trained and subsequently employed as early childhood caregivers and educators. “…We are trying to ensure that children from zero to five get the care and attention and are exposed to the kind of early childhood education that will feed their minds and that they will grow up into excellent daughters and sons of the soil so that they can contribute, in a meaningful way, to the development of Guyana,” Jordan remarked.
The facility he said, also allows parents to “comfortably go off” to earn a living, knowing that their children are being cared for in a structured and friendly environment.
Commenting on the idea that such facilities aid in the reduction of crime, the Minister said, “The crime we see today is not in many ways due to lack of early childhood education, many of our parents would have done the best they could but I think that somewhere along the line a structural approach to development of children into teenagers and adulthood might have been lost along the way.”
He added that if institutions such as the centre remedy such situations, he is committed to working with the regions, ministries and other stakeholders to establish similar facilities.
According to Project Manager of the BNTF Dikedemma Utoh, the construction was undertaken by Builders Hardware and General Supply at the cost of $36.5 million. The contract for the construction of the facility, he noted, was signed on September 8th, 2017, with work having commenced on September 11th, 2017, and being completed on February 25th, 2018.
There is also a six-month defect liability period, during which the contractor is responsible for all defects considering normal wear and tear. It will end on August 25th, 2018.
Another component of the project was the training of 64 underemployed youths in the area of early childhood development. Eight of the youths came from Anna Catherina and surrounding communities and they will be staffing the facility.
It was noted that of the eight from Anna Catherina and its environs who underwent training, two were male. However, one of the two, Shalum Allen, 19, died after an accident on the West Coast Highway in June.
“We would have went further. In partnership with the University of Guyana, we identified persons who we thought would have excelled at the foundation programme and encouraged them to apply to the University of Guyana to pursue the Certificate Programme for Early Childhood Practitioners Level One. From Region Three, three persons were identified and the youth empowerment officer would have applied to the Public Service Department for the three persons identified to be given PSM scholarships to attend the University of Guyana,” Utoh shared.
Zalaika Williams, of the Childcare and Protection Agency, in brief remarks, said the commissioning of the building is a great achievement for the region, the community of Leonora and the country at large.
“[The] Early Childhood Development Unit has supported BNTF from the initial stage of this project, through our personnel, who provided the necessary guidance and training of potential staff in order to achieve the standards outlined in the regulations which cover all childcare facilities throughout Guyana… Today, this structure before us is evidence of a successful partnership between BNTF and government agencies, hence we are cognisant of our roles and responsibilities towards sustainable development of this facility, and, therefore, we are committed in working with the region, and the regional administration in licensing this centre and ensuring that this facility is a model facility in this region,” Williams said.
In her charge to the trainees, she said, “it is our hope that you will care this facility and implement the standards you were taught for the benefit of our nation’s children… the children of Guyana are the future of tomorrow… we have the social responsibility to ensure that they receive the best start in life and the best start in school.”
Williams added, “…Welcome to community service, welcome to early childhood development, welcome to humanitarian work because in this business, you give of yourself without expecting nothing in return.”
Meanwhile, in brief remarks, Dennis Jaikarran, Regional Executive Officer of Region Three, expressed commitment towards ensuring that the facility is properly maintained and sustained.
“I would want to believe that for this centre to be maintained… and to be sustained, we have a duty at the regional level and that duty is to ensure that within a week from now, that I am going to conclude and form an unofficial board to manage the affairs of this centre. The board is going to comprise representatives of the regional administration, Regional Education Department, the trainees here, the Ministry of Health and the Early Childhood Development Unit. What we are doing here is ensuring that what is handed to us is properly maintained and sustained,” he said.
“I was happy early on when the Minister said this is the fifth in a series of Centres that would be opened and he indicated that without any bias that this is the best of its kind. I want to say to you that it will remain the best of its kind in this region,” Jaikarran added.
He noted, too, that here are some developmental works to be done, including the establishment of a ground behind the building to ensure that children at the centre are given the opportunity to be exposed to physical training.
Additionally, plans are being made by the region to budget for the rehabilitation of an unoccupied building behind the facility to serve as an annex for administration of the centre.