By Theresa Goodwin
The Maria Holder Early Childhood and Resource Centre in Buckley’s is set to be up and running for the new academic year in September.
The two-storey edifice, which had an official unveiling ceremony yesterday, will provide daycare services for 10 children under the age of two, preschool services for approximately 60 students who will start in September, additional spaces for community-based activities, and a training centre for parents and educators.
At full capacity it can accommodate more than 100 children, with some services provided free of charge for families who meet the criteria. It will be the third government-run facility of its kind in Antigua.
The centre was established through a partnership between the government and the Maria Holder Memorial Trust which is based in Barbados.
The charity’s Project Manager Donna Clarke explained that the vision for the school was conceptualised during a meeting with former Education Minister Michael Browne who outlined the government’s vision for improvements within the sector.
She said construction was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic and other logistical factors.
“The team persevered to ensure that the project was completed on May 72021. It was a hard push but we were able to overcome those challenges and follow through with the completion,” Clarke explained.
Education Minister Daryll Matthew spoke to the importance of the facility, stating that while several privately-run early childhood centres are available in Antigua and Barbuda, not everyone has the resources to use them.
“The Ministry of Education and Sports understands the importance of taking on the responsibility of providing education that activates children’s desire to learn, and more so at the tender age between zero and five years old,” the minister explained.
Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who was also present at the ceremony, spoke to the investments that the government has made to improve the country’s human resources and commended the former education minister for his insight.
The PM said the government intends to engage the Barbados-based institution in talks about the possibility of setting up another facility in the Tomlinson’s area where the Sir Novelle Richards Academy is located.
“I have said to him the government will partner with the Trust. We will put skin in the game because early childhood education is extremely important and we all know of the gap that exists within that area of our human resource capacity,” the PM added.