NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis yesterday announced that 36 privately-owned preschools will be awarded funding of up to $25,000 each as the Ministry of Education “remains committed to its universal preschool strategy”.
Speaking at the Access Accelerator Small Business Development Centre’s (SBDC) Presentation of Grants for Preschool Owners at the SMDC Gladstone Road Freight Terminal, the prime minister said the goal of providing grants to expand privately-owned preschools is to make more seats available for preschoolers, and to enable the government to meet its targets to achieve universal preschool education.
“I am very happy to be here today for this grant ceremony that will help to advance our vision of universal preschool education,” said Minnis.
“We are focused on assisting with the development of the physical infrastructure to facilitate universal preschool. Toward this end, one million dollars will be made available for preschools directors.”
He added, “Let me congratulate and encourage those who are receiving these grants. I wish you well in your endeavors to help in the nurturing and growth of our preschoolers.”
Minnis said the funds will facilitate the opening new preschools, the expansion of existing facilities or the improvement of standards at an existing preschool facility; and also said the emphasis is on neighborhoods where there are fast-growing populations and where the need is great for preschool seats.
Around 3,300 vouchers valued at approximately $6.6 million have been distributed to over 100 privately-owned preschools for the three academic years of 2018/2019 to 2020/2021, according to Minnis.
He also said that since 2018, approximately 1,825 new preschool seats were made available in a program over the two academic years of 2018/2019 and 2019/2020, and that the Ministry of Education is “currently still enrolling preschoolers for the 2020 academic year, notwithstanding the present challenges of COVID-19”.
“The Family Islands are part of The Bahamas, too”
Minnis also “reaffirmed” the government’s commitment that any educator with preschool knowledge who is qualified and wants to open a preschool on a Family Island will be given the same benefits as those on New Providence.
“I want to remind the Family Islands that they are a part of The Bahamas and they, too, should be given the same benefits and the same advantages as here in New Providence,” he said.
“We have made a commitment to the Family Islands so that their preschoolers will also able to take advantage of this educational grant and that preschool education is provided.”
Minnis said the government will provide free of charge the land for any preschool being constructed on a Family Island, and that the government will remove all forms of duty and provide all of the concessions to ensure the school is built so that Family Islanders may take advantage.
He said the government will ensure that the SBDC will have sufficient funds to provide the grants to those individuals so that they can get started.
The prime minister also briefly noted four other “major objectives” to improve learning outcomes for children and young people living in The Bahamas, including “strengthening literacy by improving student learning outcomes in English at the third-grade level”.
“We are increasing the high school graduation rate by improving student learning outcomes for the Bahamas high school criteria,” said Minnis.
According to the prime minister, the government began a digital transformation program for the government-operated school system by upgrading the internet infrastructure and Wi-Fi connectivity in all schools and by providing digital devices for students and teachers.
He stated that the government also launched a school modernization program through the construction, renovation and expansion of existing schools to accommodate additional classrooms.