Safety, security of children top priority for Early Childhood Development Unit
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – “Children’s Health, Safety and Security, our Priority” is the theme chosen for this year’s Child Month, which is celebrated in the federation in June. The safety and security aspect of the theme were highlighted on the weekly radio-television show “Working for You” June 20.
Making safety and security priorities in the Early Childhood Centres is vital to its everyday functions. Security is based on a licencing process and also through regulations, standards and policies that are in place currently, said Nadine Natta, resource teacher at the Early Childhood Development Unit (ECDU).
“For our licencing process, there has to be enough space for the children to interact,” she explained. “For the preschools, we allot them 25 square feet per child. In the nursery setting, 40 square feet for babies. This gives them the authority to do what they want on the outside and the same for the inside. They have to make sure that the children can [play] and develop themselves. That is one of the main regulations and standards that they have to adhere by.”
Natta explained that the 40 square feet do not include the space outside of the classrooms such as the bathrooms, the kitchen and the hallways. She added that for the babies, their cribs must not be in close proximity of the other. The caregiver must be able to navigate through the spaces between the cribs.
Each centre is expected to have a fire extinguisher and an emergency plan, emergency drills and tsunami drills to ensure that the children know what to do in the event of an emergency. “That’s why we try to encourage caretakers not to overcrowd their centres,” she said. “Yes, we know this is your livelihood, however, the children have to be kept safe.”
With regard to the evacuation procedures, the children have to learn what to do in case of an emergency such as an earthquake or a fire. “So, if they have enough space where they can practice these drills, and God forbid this has to happen, they know what to do and the space is there to execute and implement,” she said.
The ability to respond to an emergency is vital. Therefore, staff-child ratios are enforced, said Julianna Powell, who is also a resource teacher at the ECDU. “They have to apply to the ratio,” she said. “Once you are over that ratio, that means you have too many children in your setting and you cannot manage all those children. For example, we have the 3-4 year olds, one adult to 12 children. If you find your capacity cannot fill up the number of children, then you know that you are overcrowded.”
One of the many goals of the Early Childhood Development Unit is to keep children safe and secure.