Imagine working in an environment where you are tasked with caring for the most precious resource society will ever have. You will be expected to be an educator in the fields of literacy, mathematics, biology and science.
You will be required to teach appropriate social behaviour, good nutrition, conflict resolution skills and apply first aid. Often you will have to plan and prepare quality programming on your own time and use your own funds to supplement classroom resources. You will need to conduct yourself in a patient, nurturing and loving manner for eight hours a day, 51-52 weeks a year.
Frequently, you will find yourself working in cramped, uncomfortable spaces, some lacking adequate heat and light. You may have to stay indoors for days with eight energetic children because the weather is below minus 20 yet there is no indoor space for exercise. You may or may not have regular coffee and lunch breaks.
You will receive vacation pay, but your wage is so low that all your earnings go to pay monthly bills. There is no dental plan, paid sick leave or coverage for glasses. You will meet many people who do not understand the significance of what you do and will assume that you are just a babysitter.
This is the reality that early childhood educators and caregivers face every day in Whitehorse and in the communities. And yet there are many studies that clearly indicate that children acquire 85 per cent of their intellect, personality and skills by age five.
Poor quality of care given during this period will impact the child for the rest of his or her life. It has a direct correlation to future failure at school, bullying, addictions, crime and poor mental and physical health.
It makes a lot of sense, therefore, that we as a community take a good, long, hard look at how we currently support and fund early childhood education and care in the Yukon. If we care about our children and in the future of the territory, we all need to:
* become informed of the issues and ask those running for public office to commit to stronger support for early childhood education and care;
* increase pressure on our politicians to push for a nationally funded not-for-profit early childhood education and care program;
* ask the City of Whitehorse to implement municipal funding support for childcare subsidies (In Ontario municipalities supply 20 per cent);
* increase direct operating grants to improve quality of care, especially for infants and toddlers; and
* ensure early childhood educators are paid a liveable wage with benefits and are encouraged to pursue university level accreditation.
These recommendations may seem costly at first glance. However, numerous studies have shown that there is a 1:2 long-term cost benefit for every dollar spent on childcare in Canada. And there is adequate proof all around us to show that neglecting this responsibility only creates a long-term financial drain on our educational system, our health-care system, our policing and jails.
Supporting and improving early childhood education and care is an investment in the overall health and future success of our community. We owe it to our children who will be future lawmakers, decision-makers and our caregivers, to provide them with the best care possible – today.