By Carlena Knight
The reopening of schools will take place in less than two weeks – but some of the nation’s early childhood centres are unlikely to be among them.
According to Embler Spencer, the education officer responsible for Early Childhood Development, a number of preschools and daycare centres have been forced to close their doors permanently due to financial fallout caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Persons had a loss of income for several months and to open the schools they needed finances to be able to put in place the protocols that were established, and so we saw the closure of some schools in having difficulty with maintaining a rent during that time,” Spencer told state media yesterday.
“That was mostly the reasons given for the closure of schools and a couple of schools really fell into that trap where they were paying rent and their landlords demanded that they still pay the rent.”
Even though she did not reveal the names of the affected establishments, Spencer said some shared their discomfort in offering services to the public and as such would be closing their doors temporarily until they felt ready to resume work.
According to Spencer, when the guidelines were released, many daycare operators complained that the rules were unrealistic and kept changing.
However, she said many of the regulations, including a ratio for the number of children to staff, were not new and, in fact, were among guidelines for local childcare facilities in place since 2008.
She explained that education and health officials had tried to put in place a reasonable ratio taking both safety and economics into account.
“Early Childhood established a set of standards and in those standards, it says one adult to 10 children in preschool. And Health honoured that because they understand the economics behind it, and so they didn’t go down to the six.
“Remember, we were doing things early and when you look at the research online you see they were doing one to six. Now in good times, what we would normally do, we would allow up to 15 for economic reasons but, according to the agreement between Caricom, it is 10, and Health honoured that,” she said.
However, Spencer remains optimistic as a greater number of preschools and daycare centres have shared their readiness to resume operations, and have also received the necessary certification from the relevant authorities.
She believes that in order for these establishments to remain safe havens, there needs to be a concerted effort from parents, teachers, and the public overall.
“This is what life has become; we hope it is not going to be permanent but presently this is what is. We cannot do like the ostrich and hide our heads in the sand and hope it passes.
“We have to live through this situation and so my encouragement is to find the best place in this and function from there, be safe and use wisdom because we are the ones who will be writing the story of 2020 and our pages must read well.
“Empower yourself with the knowledge you need [for the children] and let’s offer the best possible service at this time,” the education official added.