The ECD sector has been hard hit financially. School closures due to COVID-19 meant that many privately-owned institutions that depended on school fees for their operation and maintenance had to stop operations and lay off staff. This would have had a negative impact on children’s learning and development as these institutions discontinued teaching and learning. Publicly-owned institutions such as infant schools and departments were not affected in this way as they are government-funded and do not charge school fees. The early childhood sector in Jamaica is made up of three categories of institutions: privately owned ECIs, publicly owned ECIs and ECIs that are public/private partnerships. Today’s blog explores how financial support for ECIs under the public/private partnership reduced the negative impact of COVID-19 for some institutions.
Public/private ECIs are privately owned institutions that receive government funding to support their operations and maintenance. Funding is received in the form of subsidies and grants and can be used to pay teachers, purchase materials and provide meals for children. Public/private ECIs were able to weather the financial impact of the pandemic due to financial support received through the ECC.
Here are some of the ways the ECC has supported ECIs financially during the pandemic:
Salary Subsidies are provided to ECIs to subsidize the payment of salaries for Early childhood practitioners (ECPs) at privately owned ECIs. During the pandemic, ECIs that received salary subsidies were able to remain open and retain ECPs to support children’s online learning. The ECC was able to continue paying Salary Subsidy to the approximately 3000 ECPs that were eligible to receive this support.
The Material Grant is an amount paid to ECIs that provides teachers with the opportunity to purchase materials and supplies for teaching and learning. During the academic year, 1,247 ECIs received Material Grants which benefitted 62,586 students.
Brain Builder Programme
The Brain Builder Programme provides financial support to several privately-owned ECIs that serve children 0 to 3 years old. The financial support includes funding for operations, maintenance, meals and the paying of staff. During the pandemic, Brain Builder Centres, ECIs established under the Brian Builder Programme, were able to continue operations without the risk of closures due to the government financial support received. For the period April to July 2021, 60 Brain Builder Centres received financial grants totaling $6.9 million JMD which benefitted 667 children.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious financial impact on the ECD Sector as many ECIs are still struggling to stay afloat while many have since been closed, leaving staff out of work and many children missing out on schooling. However, a silver lining in these challenging times for some ECIs is the financial support they received through the private/public partnership that not only benefitted them before COVID-19 but became a lifeline during the pandemic. Consequently, they continued operations and provided learning and development for our children at one of the most challenging times in our history. No doubt both the ECC and the ECIs see value in this type of partnership.
 Early Childhood Commission National Strategic Plan 2018-2023, unpublished.
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