x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

New early childhood centre to be opened on Reem Island in 2015

An early childhood centre will be established by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation and will include a division set up to detect early signs of learning difficulties.

ABU DHABI // An advanced early childhood centre is to be established in Abu Dhabi with a division for the early detection of learning difficulties.

The Early Childhood Centre of Excellence will serve as a model for other centres to foster greater awareness of the importance of early learning development.

It was announced at a forum organised by the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation in cooperation with Yale University to serve as a platform to share new ideas and foster debate among parents, educators and other experts in the field.

Dr Salvatore LaSpada, the executive director of the foundation, said the Government has put a huge emphasis on supporting young people.

“Our mission at the foundation is to contribute to the creation of positive futures for the people of the UAE and full realisation of their potential and aspiration,” Dr LaSpada said. “We can think of no endeavour more important than enriching the intellectual, social and psychological abilities of our children in the earliest years of their lives.”

The foundation is the family foundation of Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan and was established in 2010.

The centre, on Reem Island, will accept children aged from three months to five years.

It will also feature a division for early diagnosis of special needs. It will help children and parents outside the centre too, Dr LaSpada said.

“We want to raise public awareness on the importance in investing in our children before the age of 5,” he said.

The centre is in the design phase and is expected to start operating in 2015.

It will also provide workshops for parents on the importance of early child development.

University students in the education field will have the opportunity to visit the centre to carry out observation and conduct research to raise the skills of specialists working with children.

To increase the level of expertise, the foundation also launched the Shamsa bint Mohammed Al Nahyan fellowship programme in cooperation with Yale.

Eight educators and paediatricians, of whom seven will be Emirati, are to be enrolled in the programme, which aims to enhance their skills by allowing them to work alongside leading early childhood experts.

The programme will aim to support the eight participants in developing future tools to benefit children.

“These women will be able to develop projects in their fields and we will support them,” Mr LaSpada said.

Fatma Al Bastaki, a senior adviser of the fellowship programme, said the women in the programme would also be the leaders of the childhood centre when established.

“The centre is an important step in the development of childhood centres in the UAE,” she said.

The centre, according to Mrs Al Bastaki, will be different from other centres as it will concentrate on enhancing UAE culture and national identity while incorporating international best practices. “The centre will introduce play-based learning while it will also rely heavily on introducing Islamic and UAE values into the behaviour of children,” she said.

Mrs Al Bastaki said it was important for the centre to serve as a model as there was a huge gap in the services and knowledge provided in nurseries.

“The gap is both in the level of service provided and fee structure,” she said.