Bahamas Education Minister remarks at Naomi Blatch Preschool Regrading Ceremony‏

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The Hon. Jerome Fitzgerald Minister of Education, Science and Technology.

Nassau, Bahamas – Remarks By The Honourable Jerome K. Fitzgerald Minister Of Education, Science And Technology at The Official Regrading of Naomi Blatch Primary School to Naomi Blatch Preschool at The Naomi Blatch Preschool Baillou & John Roads Monday, 24th November, 2014:

I am elated and privileged to be a part of this exercise this morning. Today is a testament of the priority of education at all levels. Both the Ministry and Department of Education has placed a high value on early childhood education and has made it of utmost importance to ensure that preschoolers receive a quality education that truly prepares them for grade school.

According to the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) “children who attend a high-quality preschool enter grade school with better reading skills, richer vocabularies and stronger basic math skills than those who do not.” Contrary to what many people believe, our preschools are not babysitting facilities but structured environments that are designed to ensure that the appropriate developmental milestones are achieved. Preschool education focuses on five main areas of development:

1. Cognitive Development which is the child’s ability to learn and solve problems;

2. Social and Emotional development, the child’s ability to interact with others, a s well as helping themselves and exercising self-control;

3. Speech and Language Development, the child’s ability to both understand and use language;

4. Fine Motor Skills Development which is the child’s ability to use small objects, specifically their hands and fingers, to pick up crayons, hold a spoon, turn the pages in a book, or use a crayon to draw and/or color, and

5. Gross Motor Skills which is the child’s ability to use large muscles to run, jump and skip.

The intellectual stimulation that children receive in these environments is crafted in such a way that the children are learning without even realizing it.

The beauty of our preschool environments is that children are given opportunities to explore, create, imagine, observe, listen, ask questions, try new things and very importantly, practice the skills they learn. We all know that “children are natural learners and learn best when they are happy and are given interesting things to do in a safe place.” To this end, the Ministry of Education knew that upgrades were necessary to create the safe learning environment necessary for the students to thrive. The Ministry was deliberate in its design strategy to ensure that the facilities were indeed age appropriate. An investment of approximately three hundred and sixty-eight thousand, eight hundred and thirty-two dollars and fifty-four cents ($368,832.54) was made to upgrade this facility. The scope of work included construction and repair as well as the replacement of furniture supplies to meet preschool standards. Desks and chairs and all classroom furniture had to be changed to accommodate the preschoolers; the upper level was transformed to house the Principal’s Office and a classroom was converted into the Staff Room as well as the creation of a Resource Room. The bathrooms had to be completely remodeled and outfitted with toddler-sized toilets and lower sinks to allow ease of use thus requiring plumbing and electrical work. Additionally, a playground facility was outfitted to provide an opportunity for wholesome outdoor play and a boundary wall was constructed to ensure the safety of the students as well as the installation of a security booth to further enhance the safety of the campus as. The investment made to this school was one that I know will benefit students of this school for years to come. We acknowledge the various contractors who worked on this project; Mr. Valentino Hanna, Mr. Rustum Evans, Mr. Marco Nottage, Mr. Vesco Hanna and Creative Kids; as well as the Project Manager from the Ministry of Works, Mr. Livingston Forbes. Teacher and students, we must all work together to maintain this campus and maximize on the investment so that future students will also be able to enjoy this facility.

Parents, your role in educating your child is far more important that you can ever imagine. You are your child’s first teacher. What children see, hear and watch parents do in the home is translated into the behavior and attitudes of the children and are manifested in the wider community. Parents and families have a critical role to play in the educational success of preschoolers. Parents, remember that children do best where they feel safe and loved.

Preschool teachers possess a special gift that allows them to connect with the developing minds of their students. They are able to convey information that is age appropriate and stimulates further interest. They must craft every lesson in such a manner that it is always fun and exciting and that children enjoy the various activities. At this level, “school is all about having fun and acquiring skills to build upon in years to come; not achieving academic milestones.” Preschool teachers have the awesome privilege of setting the tempo for life-long learning and instilling a positive attitude towards school that is so ingrained in our children that it carries with them throughout their lives. I hope that you all remain passionate about the work that you do and that you transfer that passion to your students.

The Preschool Unit of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has been the backbone of preschools throughout the country. Theirs is an integral role in the entire process from implementation to sustaining. They are responsible for setting curriculum and ensuring that all preschools are on the cutting edge and remain abreast of best preschool practices. The work that you do is deeply appreciated. You are the foundation layers and without your work, we cannot begin to construct the minds of our preschoolers.

I wish to extend my heartfelt gratitude to former Minister of Education, Mr. T. Desmond Bannister for his fortitude in amalgamating the primary school students to the T.G. Glover Primary School, thus creating an opportunity for a much needed preschool in this area. The strategic placement of preschools is significant to meeting the needs of our communities. We must continue to ensure that all steps in the education ladder are securely positioned so that our children can climb to the top and have every possible opportunity to succeed. I wish the principal, teachers and students of this school the best in its future endeavors and may you maintain your reputation of a great institution. May the Naomi Blatch Preschool exceed expectations!

God bless you and God bless The Commonwealth of The Bahamas.