Construction of a $120 million Early Childhood Centre of Excellence will begin shortly.
The sod-turning ceremony for the project was done on Friday morning.
It could become one of the most transformative projects in early childhood development and education, setting standards and guidelines for day care centres and playgroups.
The Early Childhood Centre of Excellence is funded jointly by the Government and the Caribbean Development Bank, through Basic Needs Trust Fund Guyana, and will serve as model institution for service delivery and development.
The building itself will transform the landscape at the University’s Turkeyen campus. It will accommodate 120 infants and toddlers, and will house an observation room, a conference room and research spaces.
At least 20 adults, will gain employment and learn to become better early childhood practitioners.
“A Centre of Excellence is unique in that it not only contains a facility for our children to grow and thrive in a safe environment conducive to learning, but it will also function as a research facility, where early childhood education scholars can come together to conduct studies and further develop good practices,” said Finance Minister Winston Jordan.
“It will serve as a hub and resource centre for other early childhood education practitioners to gain knowledge and advice from experts in the field.”
The project was long in the making and the journey towards constriction was perilous, said Deputy Vice Chancellor and Chair of the University’s Transitional Management Committee, Dr Paloma Mohamed.
She said among the University’s goals is for it to be a centre of excellence for research and solutions to the challenges facing the country and one of those challenges is the way in which children are socialized and raised.
According to UNICEF, low quality, sparse coverage and sustainability of Early Childhood Development programmes hinder the achievement of equity and quality in education for all children. Lack of knowledge on the part of parents, their sometimes low literacy levels and lack of coordinated support systems add to the challenges.
In 2016, UNICEF noted that Early Childhood Development programmes and facilities, namely day care centres and play groups for ages 3 months to 3 years are few and are offered in urban and coastal areas where about 80% of the population lives. UNICEF found that only 2% of the day care centres met the minimum standards for such facilities.
According to the Ministry of Finance, once established, the Centre will become a flagship laboratory school under the University of West Indies Open Campus (UWI OC) Early Childhood Centres of Excellence Company, as formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding between UWI and the University of Guyana.
The Company, also known as BLOOM, has established Centres of Excellence in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. These laboratory preschools employ holistic education methods while creating a nurturing and engaging atmosphere for the students enrolled there.