EARLY CHILDHOOD UNIT
To develop a system of Early Childhood Education aimed at satisfying the needs and demands of both children and their parents by, promoting the development of young children in a safe and stimulating environment designed to impact positively on the learning skills and styles of the children and their parents; and to empower their parents and care-givers to play a more conscious, informed role in the holistic development of each child through education services.
- Professionalization of the Early Childhood Sector.
- Enforcement of quality assurance standards in all Early Childhood settings.
- Development of organizational structure for assessment and certification of the Early Childhood workforce, using a competency-based approach to qualifications.
- Development of an inter-ministerial operational plan for establishment of service provider networks at the district level.
- Expanding the provision of parenting support and education.
- Development of model Early Childhood Educational Centres at the district level.
In 1979, the Ministry of Community Development, Social Affairs, Youth and Sports established Child Day Care Centres in the rural communities of Cul-de Sac, La Ressource and Marigot to assist working women employed on banana plantations with their parental duties. In 1980, the number of Day Care Centres increased to include Babonneau, L’Abayee and Ciceron. This initiative which targeted low income families in St. Lucia provided an affordable basic social service in an effort to alleviate poverty. The service was offered at a minimal cost of five dollars per week and registered children below the age of three years.
The project addressed irregularity at school for older siblings who would otherwise remain at home as well as the improvement of the nutritional status of young children by introducing balanced meals at all centres. The majority of female headed households in these communities benefited from the service.
Despite the fact that the targeted group was women, a deliberate effort was made to include other members of the household. Parenting workshops equipped parents and other community residents not only with child development ideas but also basic skills for innovative home management and income generating projects. The involvement of youth in summer workshops promoted an interest in the development of play materials for siblings and young children within the respective communities.
The Day Care Services Unit remained under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Social Transformation, Culture and Local Government until March 2017 delivering early childhood education, care and development services to children below the age of three years through a network of public day care centres and a few private centres.
The Pre Schools Unit of the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development, Youth and Sports had responsibility for private centres with a mandate to focus on children from the ages of three to five years.
The two Units merged in 2017 and currently operate as the Early Childhood Services Unit (ECSU) located at La Clery, Castries. One hundred and twenty nine (129) centres are approved by the ECSU as of April 01, 2020 based on the reregistration exercise conducted from September 2017 to March 2020.
Number of public centres : 21
Number of private centres : 108