A massive expansion of after-school activities has been one of the success stories of the last few years for the Department of Education, according to officials.
The Extended After School Programme was set up in 2011 and now provides activities for more than 1,400 children across every age group in the public school system.
Funding remains an issue, however, for the fledgling programme. It began with only 60 students involved and has grown exponentially.
The popularity of the programme and the need for staff and volunteers to be trained and security cleared to look after large groups of children has cost implications.
Michael Myles, the government’s at-risk youth co-ordinator, estimates the annual cost of keeping the programme running in its current form at $560,000 annually.
He is currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign to attract investment in the scheme from private sector donors. The current government committed to 85 percent of the funding.
But he is concerned that it could be a casualty of budget cuts in a new administration.
Mr. Myles told the Compass in March: “If we don’t get more funding before September, there won’t be a programme. We are looking for the corporate community to get involved, either by sending volunteers or by providing funding.”
Mr. Myles said funds went toward paying a small stipend to staff, providing transport and snacks for children and training staff.
He said the programme had set high standards for training and health and safety and needed to be properly funded to maintain those standards as it grew. All staff have to go through an application and interview process, receive police screening and sign up to a set of policies and procedures. First aid training and training in recognizing signs of abuse among young children are also given to senior staff and volunteers,
“I want the citizens of the country to understand that this is not a babysitting agency. We are safe guarding the children while they are in our care.”
Private sector funding for the Extended After School Programme is administered through its partners in the charitable sector, Cayman Outreach and George Town Sports Club.
Several private companies already contribute funds. BAF insurance company was the latest to join a list of sponsors that includes PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Dart and Kirk’s Supermarket.
After school initiatives are a fundamental way to make sure that learning doesn’t stop when the school day ends,” said BAF General Manager, Terence Spencer. “These activities utilise countless creative ways to help children expand their horizons and get the support they need. We at BAF believe that everyone has a responsibility to ensure the overall success of our children and it absolutely takes a village to bring that to fruition.”