12 Dec, 2014

….$3 billion contributed to sector SINCE 2004

Another cadre of early childhood education teachers will get the opportunity to move up the professional ladder, due to a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education Fund (CHASE) and teachers training institutions on November 11.   The  ceremony was held in the Norman Manley Suite at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston this morning.

Under the Fund’s recent revaluation of its policy, for the first time the teacher training institutions have signed an agreement which will govern this scholarship arrangement, allowing for improvement in the administration and monitoring of the programme which caters to students pursuing studies at the undergraduate and post graduate levels,  either three years full time or four years part time.

Scholarship support for teachers has evolved from the first training programme agreement in 2004 administered through the HEART Trust/NTA which provided financial support for eligible candidates to pursue NCTVET Level 2 certification as well as Diploma courses at teachers’ colleges.  The initiative supported the Government’s thrust to restructure and raise standards in the early childhood education system.

Mr. W. Billy Heaven, Chief Executive Officer of CHASE, said partnering  with the teachers’ colleges was a step in the right direction and he urged them to be vigilant in their accountability under the programme.  “This is only the beginning of the process. To ensure its success we have to abide by the rules to achieve our goals of human capacity building and to change the image of  the early childhood sector,” Mr. Heaven pointed out.

Chairman of CHASE’s Education Committee, Dr. Rose Davies said she was pleased to witness this particular signing as it highlighted the heavy emphasis that the Fund placed on education at the early childhood level and pointed the way forward in which the Fund was heading. “Teachers are the critical factor that matters in the outcome of a child’s education and their training and upgrading in early childhood development is of foremost priority to set the stage for young children’s development between the ages from birth to 8 years old,” she said.

Dr. Davies also shared that a total of 3,383 awards at the undergraduate level were implemented at a cost of $284,250,000 between 2005 and 2014.  She also revealed that for the 2014/2015 period the Fund has committed a further $60 million to upgrade the scholarship offering to include the Bachelors and Masters Degrees as well as Doctorates at institutions both locally and overseas.

“Gone are the days when practitioners who just love babies could go and teach in basic schools,” said Dr. Davies, “but they now have to be qualified as a means of improving the readiness of pre-school children for lower primary to ensure a smooth transition to primary school and to improve literacy levels nationally,” she concluded.

Speaking on behalf of teachers colleges of Jamaica, Mrs. Dossetta Edward Watson, Vice Principal, Admission/Administrative Affairs, Shortwood Teachers’ College expressed profound gratitude to the CHASE Fund, for what she described as a sterling contribution to education. Amplifying the contribution that her own College has received, she said since 2005 Shortwood has received J$94 million on behalf of students and for the 2008 to 2009 academic year some J$ 18 million was received.

“This has been a master stroke in  providing the funds for early childhood teacher trainees who are employed at low wages, but are required to pay the full cost of their programmes,” said Mrs. Watson.

According to the Shortwoood College Vice Principal, when teachers are educated and motivated to excel, they produce students who will exceed expectations, thus requiring us to place fewer burglar bars on houses and the installation of technological devices to secure motor vehicles.

The Teachers’ Colleges which were present for the MOU signing are: The Mico University College, St. Joseph’s Teachers’ College, Church Teachers’ College, Shortwood Teachers’ College, Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College, the International University of the Caribbean and the University of the West Indies- Open Campus.

Since its inception ten years ago, the CHASE Fund has pumped J$3 billion in the early childhood education sector, with hefty sums contributed to support infrastructure where conditions were not conducive to learning;  curriculum support, nutrition as well as construction of basic schools and resource centres.