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KUCHING, Oct 12: Wellfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Dato Sri Fatimah Abdullah has rebutted a statement made by Parti Sarawak Bersatu (PSB) president Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh on Oct 10 where he said that the government, whether at the State or Federal level, has not paid enough attention to early childhood care and education (ECCE).
Fatimah in a press statement yesterday said the State government has long paid attention to ECCE.
She outlined that in 2017, the Sarawak Early Childhood Development Council was set up to look into matters pertaining to ECCE.
In the same year, Fatimah said the Early Childhood Development Division, manned by 10 staff was established to give special attention to ECCE in Sarawak.
She added that Sarawak, through the Ministry of Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development focused on access, equity and quality of ECCE.
She asserted that through a collaborative effort with various agencies at the Federal and State level, 98.35 per cent of children in Sarawak in Year 1 (2021) attended preschool education before going to Primary 1.
“Under our state-owned Sedidik (Sdn Bhd), we focus on equity, to ensure that children in rural areas especially, are not left behind in preschool education.
“This is to help complement the federal initiatives through (Tadika) Kemas, Prasekolah KPM (Education Ministry) and Tabika Perpaduan,” she said.
Fatimah said her ministry has organised various courses and workshops to enhance the knowledge and skills of teachers and care givers in Sarawak knowing that teachers play crucial role in delivering quality services for quality preschool.
She added her ministry has also organised the Preschool Convention annually with specific themes relating to ECCE.
This year, Fatimah said her ministry has organised the inaugural Sarawak Preschool International Convention (October 1-3) with the theme ‘Character Building In The new Norm’ attended by 2,180 teachers and care givers.
To ensure quality early childhood institutions, she said the Wellfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Ministry has provided monetary grants for winners of Sarawak’s annual Award For Quality Early Childhood Institutions.
Fatimah said the State government has approved RM16 million as special annual grants (GTK) since 2019 to help all registered early childhood institutions.
She added each registered early childhood institution is also entitled to RM5,000 grant to be used for balanced and healthy meal; fun learning; professional development for teachers and care givers; and activities involving parents.
To reduce the financial burden on private early childhood institutions (IPAKK) caused by Covid-19, Fatimah said her ministry has allowed GTK to be used for helping operators to pay rental and salary, purchasing of masks, sanitisers, thermometers and paying for sanitisation services to ensure standard operating procedures (SOP) compliance in all early childhood institutions.
As of to-date this year, she said her ministry has approved 2,755 out of 2,946 (93.5 per cent) applications for GTK received including for Yakin Diri Kindergarten.
She pointed out that the Early Childhood Development Division of her ministry has organised the Sarawak Preschool Kids Got Talent contest annually to focus on talent development of young children.
Fatimah said various books have also been published to help operators, teachers, care givers and even parents in teaching, nurturing and taking care of young children.
“Preschool teachers are a special breed of teachers.
“They are like second parents to young children, nurturing and loving the children, teaching early literacy and basic life skills, inculcating values for character development as well as laying foundation for quality human development,” she added.
Fatimah extended her appreciation to the commitment and passion of preschool teachers including those working at privately run, church, mosque, community based as documented in the Ministry’s recently published book titled ‘Women in ECCE: Sowing The Seeds For The Future’.
Fatimah assured that the state government is giving its best to ensure all Sarawak preschool children age has access to early childhood care and that appropriate and relevant support is provided to all ECCE providers irrespective whether it is government or private ECCE. — DayakDaily