Chairman of the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), Trisha Williams-Singh, has said that while there has been a decline in the number of institutions operating without a permit over the last five years, the remainder was still cause for concern.
Eighty-four early childhood institutions across Jamaica have been listed as delinquent, including 12 operated by the Government.
The majority of delinquent institutions are located in St Catherine (13), followed by St James (12), and Clarendon (10)..
“They have refused as operators to simply respect what the law of the land is. Once you have in your care more than three children, you are supposed to apply to the Early Childhood Commission so that you may receive a permit to operate,” Williams-Singh said, noting that the fee was only $1,500.
She explained that a permit is granted to an institution once an inspection confirms that there is no health threat present.
Institutions are then expected to work towards achieving ECC’s 12 operational standards.
“We have seen improvements, but as chairman, I am still not satisfied with the fact that we have institutions out there that have failed to apply to us for registration. We have gone around Jamaica, we have done certification fairs, and we have given every opportunity to all the stakeholders to get registered,” the chairman lamented.
Williams-Singh added that when concerns were raised about the cost of acquiring police records for practitioners, the Government made an intervention by absorbing the expense.
She said the ECC has also taken steps to make the process easier and is in the process of making the application electronically available.
When asked why state-operated institutions were among delinquents, Williams-Singh said it is “disheartening”.
“It is not a lack of trying on the part of the ECC. The Early Childhood Commission should not be viewed as an entity that has a hammer over your head beating you down. The full role really is to ensure that there is a coordinated effort among all players to ensure that the children are getting quality early childhood service,” the chairman said.
She disclosed that among the conforming early childhood institutions, 50 per cent were operating in accordance with half or more of the 12 standards.
Williams-Singh said that with the pandemic raging on for almost two years, inspections were limited as children were not in school.
“Once we have intensified our visits and our inspections, schools that are found wanting and operating below 30 per cent will be recommended for closure. They really shouldn’t be staying in the business of taking care of children if they are not able to meet minimum requirements,” the chairman remarked.