PACE marks 30 years of helping to educate Jamaica's kids
June 17, 2017
The huge sums of money that Jamaican nationals and friends of the Caribbean country have contributed to the advancement of childhood education in the western Caribbean country in the last three decades has enhanced child well-being and increased the educational achievement and productivity of children and adults.
In 1987, the Project for the Advancement of Childhood Education (PACE) Canada was launched in Toronto with a group of nationals and individuals interested in advancing education sponsoring 13 basic schools.
Today, the Adopt-A-School program supports 317 early childhood institutions from St. Mary’s in the north to Clarendon in the south and Portland in the east to Hanover in the west.
The investment has helped the schools move a step closer towards achieving the 12 legal operating standards for certification by the Early Childhood Commission. This number represents 12 per cent of the 2,730 operational schools.
At PACE’s 30th annual awards celebration recently, Jamaica’s Education Minister Ruel Reid acknowledged PACE’s investment in early childhood education.
It’s estimated that PACE enriches and empowers the lives of almost 15,000 young children annually.
The former Jamaica College principal also asked Canadian supports to consider supporting the public infant departments which the government subsidize.
“For our education system to be agile and responsive to the future, we have to reach our kids at a very early age,” said Reid who graduated from the University of the West Indies, Bethlehem Moravian College and Nova Southeastern University. “We have to get the foundation right to succeed.”
Trisha Williams-Singh, the chair of Jamaica’s Early Childhood Commission, accompanied Reid to Toronto.
She also had high praise for the work PACE had done over the years.
“We have seen the impact,” said the former Digicel senior administrator. “The reality though is if we get it right at the basic level, there will be a domino effect for our country. We are on a drive to create more infant departments to widen the pool of opportunity.”
There are 396 infant schools in Jamaica.
“We need to increase that to about 500 in the next three years,” said Williams-Singh who was a customer quality manager at the defunct Air Jamaica before joining Digicel a decade ago. “We want PACE to continue what they are doing but also have a look at supporting our infant departments.”
In addition to the adopt-a-school program, PACE provides teacher training through scholarships and bursaries, funding for the Music & Movement program at the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Montego Bay and a hands-on environment to teach basic computer skills through two full equipped mobile computer buses.
PACE is also partnering in building an infant school and diagnostic centre at Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College.
“The work we do is serious and important,” said Sandra Whiting, PACE Canada’s 11th president. “Your being with us this afternoon helps us achieve our goals of changing the lives of children, teachers and parents. Every contribution goes a long way and we do and continue to make an enormous difference.”
Independent medical practitioner Dr. Ralph Masi was introduced to PACE by its founder Dr. Mavis Burke and University of Toronto professor emeritus Dr. Keith McLeod who passed away in December 2014.
“They told me this is something that I have to be involved in and I believed what they were saying,” said Masi who was the recipient of a special PACE 30th anniversary award.
Through friends and family, he supports 14 basic schools.
“The nicest thing about this is going to the schools and seeing the growth,” Masi said. “That’s an incredible experience. You know that giving those funds is the right thing to do.”
Pacesetter Awards acknowledge the goods and services provided by individuals.
This year’s awardees were retired banker Patricia Gloudon, BrandEQ Agency president and chief executive officer Nadine Spencer and Vivienne Nelson-Campbell who has supported a basic school.
Migrating from Jamaica 35 years ago, Nelson-Campbell spent almost 13 years with the Jamaica Consulate and the Jamaica Information Service before joining George Hull Centre for Children & Families 14 years ago as a child & youth care practitioner.
Two decades ago, she set up her own catering service.
Gloudon spent 41 years with Scotiabank before retiring on her 65th birthday on October 31, 2014. Starting in the accounting department, she rose to the position of director of commercial retail money market.
A marketing and communications specialist, Spencer serves as marketing director for Accelerating Women Entrepreneurs, an organization founded by Whole Foods Market chief executive officer John Mackey. She also works with various charitable organizations, empowering impoverished and disenfranchised women to attain prosperity through education and entrepreneurship.
Lifetime awards were presented to Dr. Vincent Conville, Delrine Jones, Ken Bowen and Sharon Wynter-Bowen while Alliance of Jamaican Alumni Associations founding president Paul Barnett is the organization’s newest patron.
For a dollar a day, individuals or groups can participate in PACE’s adopt-a-school program. The annual $365 donation is sent to the sponsored school where the principal, community leaders and parents determine how the funds should be utilized.
PACE emerged after then Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga, who was in the city to celebrate the country’s 25th independence anniversary with nationals, suggested the Diaspora community consider supporting early childhood education in the Caribbean country.
Burke received a phone call the next day from a friend informing her of Seaga’s request.
She acted and the rest is history.
The most visible and consistent Jamaican charitable group in Canada, PACE is the only organization of its kind outside Jamaica that embraces early childhood education, raising thousands of dollars to help prepare kids between the ages of two and five for higher education.