The Ministry of Education officially launched the Grandfather Programme of Caregivers in Day-Care and Preschool Centres, a move to raise the standards of early childhood care in the country.

On behalf of the Minister the Hon. Carl Bethel, Permanent Secretary Elma Garraway announced details of the programme during a ceremony Monday, June 30, at the Anglican Church of the Epiphany on Prince Charles Drive.

Effective immediately, the programme calls for candidates to undergo a 40 credit-hour course, which ends in March 2009. Candidates must be 40 years and over and have worked with children for 10 years or more. The Ministry has accepted 105 candidates to be trained over the period of 40 contact days.

Forty-four of the candidates hail from New Providence, 54 from Grand Bahama, five from North and Central Andros and one from Long Island. The senior education officer will finalise the registration of candidates and conduct orientation in Abaco, where 25 candidates are eligible for the programme.

“My Ministry realises that the establishment of early childhood standards is a necessary step toward high quality early childhood care and education,” Mrs. Garraway said. “Therefore, it is extremely important that we design standards that are measurable and realistic for everyday compliance in our society.”

The subcommittee for the preschool component of the 1994 National Task Force on Education recommended that there is a need to legislate preschool education. The training of caregivers in the area of early childhood education heads the list of criteria for the legislation.

As a result, in 1994 the concern to regulate day-care and preschool centres was expressed, and in 1997 a committee to draft legislation for day-care and preschool centres was established.

“Although legislation has been passed, there is still much work left to be done towards the standards,” Mrs. Garraway said.

She noted that the final draft of the standards is being read and critiqued, with the revised national standards to be presented to Parliament and aligned with regulations before the end of the 2008/09 school year.

In preparation for enforcement of the early childhood care national standards, the Ministry is making available copies of the documents to the public and relevant stakeholders to discuss and submit feedback.

“We do not intend to enforce regulations until we have ascertained that all proprietors have been given the opportunity to meet the standards,” Mrs. Garraway said.

As proclaimed in the 1994 National Task Force Report, “we realise that there is a serious challenge toward quality preschool education in The Bahamas in the area of professional training,” she said.

Research indicates that 60 percent of the three to five group of preschoolers are provided childcare services by the private sector.

“My government is indeed grateful to and appreciative of the services rendered by the private sector in the care of very young children and we are aware of the fact that managing your centres require a great sense of responsibility, service and commitment,” Mrs Garraway said.

“We are also aware of the fact that many of you were unable to become trained in early childhood education due to financial constraints and manpower,” she added.

The programme is supported by the Inter-American Development Bank.