At right: Minister of Education, Ronald Jones unveils the plaque at the official opening of the Thelma Berry Nursery School. Also pictured are Constituency Representative, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo; the Reverend Canon Noel Burke; Education Officer, Jennifer Small and Principal of the school, Angela Chaplain. (A. Miller/BGIS)

Government is continuing its drive to ensure that those children of pre-school age have access to beneficial early childhood education; and, to this end, the Ministry of Education today formally opened its third nursery school in as many years, with the inauguration of the Thelma Berry Nursery School.

While delivering the feature address at the former St. David’s Primary School, Minister of Education, Ronald Jones, noted that it represented part of the expansion of nursery school education in Barbados.??

"I am very pleased, as we move to provide adequate space for all children of nursery school age in Barbados. As I speak, plans are being finalised for the refurbishment of the former St. John the Baptist Infants School to be retrofitted for use as another nursery school. We also have plans to construct six more nursery schools in the very near future," the Minister said.

While noting that the memory of the late caretaker, Thelma Berry, after whom the school has been named, would linger on, Mr. Jones noted that children’s development and intellectual capacities were fostered through their interaction with "caring individuals in a secure, nurturing and stimulating environment".

He added:?? "…children’s experiences in the first years help to create the foundation not only for future learning but also for the development of appropriate social and emotional skills and values. Research has shown that access to high quality early childhood education and care forms the foundation for the smooth transfer to primary education, and enhances the chances of students successfully completing basic education."

According to Principal, Angela Chaplain, the school admitted pupils in September 2011, and is presently running at full capacity with a roll of 76 pupils, four class teachers, one coordinator, one senior teacher and one teacher’s aid.?? She promised that the school would endeavor to live up to the high standards and moral values that were displayed by Mrs. Berry.????

"The name Thelma Berry is associated with thoughtfulness, generosity, kindness and charitable work… Our motto is Hand in Hand, We Learn and this suggests togetherness, and together we will strive for excellence to make Thelma Berry one of the best nursery schools in Barbados.?? We are well aware that the physical facility is a very important factor that contributes to the programme’s quality.?? According to research, children demonstrate higher cognitive skills and greater social competence in schools that are safe and orderly, contain a wide variety of stimulating equipment and materials, and are organised in learning centres…" Ms. Chaplain said.

Mrs. Berry moved to St. David’s circa 1955, and in 1960, Winifred W. Blackman, the Headmaster of St. David’s Boys School, offered her a job as janitor (caretaker) at the school.??

Representing the Berry family at the function was one of her sons, Stephen Berry.?? He thanked the Government for "recognising a daughter of the soil and for bestowing this honour on my family".?? He expressed the hope that the children of the nursery would, like his mother, look after one another, be giving and sharing with those in need.??

"Today marks a special day in the history of St. David’s, and indeed Barbados, when a lady from humble beginnings could have her name engraved here on the walls of this school…. Many who attended the St. David’s school in those years would remember that she looked out naturally, and from her heart, for those who needed someone…?? She took care of those children as if they were her own, no matter what nationality, colour or denomination.?? No one was left behind.?? Thelma kept that up for 21 years and touched the lives of more than one generation," Mr. Berry explained.


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