Small Business Development Centre Presentation of Grants for Pre-School Owners

Ladies and Gentlemen:

Good afternoon.

When I was a young boy growing up in Bain Town, I used to go with my friends to Big Pond and the ponds near the area of what is now the Town Centre Mall to catch tadpoles and frogs.

I was interested in biology from a young age.

On weekends and during the summer, my siblings and I, and friends, used to spend a lot of time on the beach.

We loved swimming and discovering all of the fish and marine life in the ocean.

As I got older my interest in biology and the sea came together.

For a while, I thought I would become a marine biologist.

I always thought that my dreams were possible because I had a mother and sisters who helped to nurture and to encourage my dreams.

I eventually became a medical doctor through the encouragement and sacrifices of my family.

Education is not just about learning facts and information.

Education is about much more.

It is also about fulfilling one’s potential and dreams.

Education is as much about the life of the mind as it is about the heart and the soul.

We become educated not just to make a living, but also to make a life worth living and to make a life that contributes to the good of the world and the communities we live in.

I have said on many occasions that talent and ability are equally distributed among people no matter the circumstance of one’s birth.

But in a country or society, opportunity is not as equally distributed.

The reason I entered public life was to help as many Bahamians as possible, especially more disadvantaged Bahamians, to pursue and realize their dreams.

For me, this comes from my religious faith and it comes from my faith in the promise of The Bahamas.

My time as prime minister is dedicated to providing as much opportunity as possible for as many Bahamians as possible.

I know from life experience that poorer communities are full of talented Bahamians, who if given more opportunities, can fulfill their dreams and contribute more to national development. 

Access to education from preschool to college is one of the best ways to provide opportunity to more Bahamians.

This is why education has been one of the major priorities of my Government.  

Education is at the very heart of a country’s economic and social well-being and development.

Such education must begin from childhood.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

In 2018, the Ministry of Education embarked on an ambitious journey with five main objectives to improve learning at every level.

One of these objectives was to provide universal preschool by providing access for Bahamian three- and four-year-olds to attend a public or privately-owned preschool program, sponsored by the Government. 

To achieve the Universal Preschool objective, the Ministry of Education enrolls preschoolers in an existing or expanded public preschool.  

The Government also sponsors vouchers to enable preschool students to be educated.

The voucher is $2,000 per student to cover the cost of tuition. 

The Ministry partners with privately-owned preschools having a current registration status with the Preschool & Daycare Council. 

The goal of providing grants to expand privately-owned pre-schools 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.

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.

Today, 36 privately-owned pre-schools will be awarded funding of up to $25,000 each.

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.

These funds will facilitate: the opening new preschools, the expansion of existing facilities or the improvement of standards at an existing preschool facility.

The emphasis is on neighborhoods where there are fast growing populations and where the need is great for pre-school seats. 

Ladies and Gentlemen:

     Let me briefly mention some of the advances we have made in our promotion of universal preschool.

     Since 2018, approximately 1,825 new preschool seats were made available in a preschool program over the two academic years of 2018/2019 and 2019/2020. 

Approximately 3,300 vouchers have been distributed to over 100 privately-owned preschools for the three academic years of 2018/2019 to the present 2020/2021.  

These vouchers are valued at approximately $6.6 million.  

The Ministry of Education remains committed to its universal preschool strategy.

The Ministry is currently still enrolling preschoolers for the 2020 academic year, notwithstanding the present challenges of COVID-19.

Ladies and Gentlemen: 

Allow me to briefly note four other major objectives to improve learning outcomes for our children and young people.

We are 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.

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.

We also launched a school modernization program through the construction, renovation and expansion of existing schools to accommodate additional classrooms and we began amalgamating schools.

I also note an historic and major accomplishments in education.  

Since 2018, we have expanded access to tertiary level education in both the academic and technical levels.

Qualifying students can now attend the University of The Bahamas and the Bahamas Technical and Vocational Institute (BTVI) with tuition paid for by the Government of The Bahamas.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

     Let me close by thanking the Minister, the Permanent Secretary and her staff, and all of those in the Ministry of Education and other education stakeholders, for all they are doing to improve access to opportunity in education for young Bahamians.

     I thank the Executive Director of the Small Business Development Centre and her staff for their collaborative efforts to make this opportunity a reality for the privately-owned preschools.  

     And I thank all of the preschool directors who have stepped up to fulfill the necessary requirements to participate in this initiative.

     Together, we are fighting for a better future for all of our people by affording them an opportunity to realize their dreams and their hopes. 

     May God bless your students and your endeavors.

     And may God bless our Bahamas.

Thank you. 

     Please wear your masks, encourage physical distancing, and thank you for following the public health guidelines.

Thank you and good afternoon.