BY: KABRENA ROBINSON
In most countries, early childhood education is highly regarded as an integral building block for the cultivation of young minds. With early basic training in reading, writing, and arithmetic, students gain literacy skills that will propel them to higher education but for some, this necessity is limited.
The Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE), aims to solve this dilemma by fostering the development of early childhood schooling in Jamaica and Canada for children between the ages of three to five in situations of racial, cultural or economic disadvantage.
To celebrate thirty years of steady growth, PACE Canada hosted their annual Strawberry Social, an occasion dedicated to the cause of helping young children succeed. The event held in the ballroom of the Delta Toronto East Hotel on Sunday, June 4th was an afternoon of amusement and splendor.
The program included many distinguished guests and speakers such as Her Excellency, Janice Miller, High Commissioner for Jamaica to Canada, Hon. Mitzie Hunter, Minister of Education for Ontario, Hon. Ruel Reid, Minister of Education, Youth and Information for Jamaica and the Hon. Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports for Jamaica.
Itah Sadu, an award-winning author and storyteller conducted the program of events which featured live performances from Caribbean folk group “The Heritage Singers”. The group kickstarted the luncheon with a medley of popular Jamaican folk songs followed by a closing performance by Karen Durrant the notable Tina Turner impersonator.
Throughout the merriment, the charitable goal of the gathering was not neglected. Various artworks done by students were on sale, along with the silent auctioning of various novelty items including an autographed T-shirt signed by Jamaican sprint legend Usain Bolt sold for $550 CDN.
PACE organizers expressed that they were very pleased with the turnout and contributions made to the worthy cause of providing and improving educational facilities for young children in need.
“Thirty years is a very significant milestone for us and having so many people come out to I think our biggest Strawberry Social yet, really shows how important what we are doing is and how appreciative people are,” said Diana Burke a former president of PACE and Chair of the Adopt-A-School Program.
The organization formed in 1987 by Dr. Mavis Burke, was a response to former Prime Minister of Jamaica Edward Seaga’s call to assist community-based preschools in Jamaica. Since its thirty thriving years in operation, PACE has adopted over three hundred out of the two thousand plus early childhood institutions in Jamaica, assisting them by providing adequate resources and technology needed to enhance education in mostly impoverished small communities. PACE has also been an active advocate for childhood education in Ontario. Currently, the organization awards annual bursaries to students in the Early Childhood Education program at George Brown College.
Burke added that PACE will be working closely with the Jamaican government to achieve their goal of ensuring that all early childhood institutions in Jamaica are certified and well equipped with the essential tools for learning. They also hope to make an addition of thirty new schools to their program this year. Burke says that she hopes the PACE Strawberry Social will inspire more people to donate to the cause and acknowledge the necessity of childhood education within their families.
Olivia Grange, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports for Jamaica expressed that it is important for the Jamaican government to continue with fostering a relationship with PACE and members of the Jamaican diaspora in Canada.
“It is in the interest of Jamaica as a developing country to benefit from the support of its diaspora and early childhood education is a very critical and important part of our development,” she said in an interview. “It is very important for this relationship and partnership to be nurtured and to be strengthened going forward.”