Hull-Ballah – Early Childhood Educator
March 19, 2010
Hull-Ballah – Early Childhood Educator

by Ministry of Education 19.MAR.10

A notable pioneer in Early Childhood Education in St. Vincent and the Grenadines is Mrs. Judith Hull-Ballah. Mrs. Hull-Ballah recalled her enthusiasm and anxiety when she was given a teaching job at the tender age of 14. She was assigned to Infants 1, then referred to as ABC, and paid a very small stipend. As she progressed through the Pupil-Teacher system, Mrs. Hull-Ballah acquired much needed experience and exposure to instructional techniques which were reinforced through training at the St. Vincent Teachers’ College.{{more}} Ironically, after her training, and well armed with new methodologies in Infant Education, she was sent to Adelphi Junior Secondary. Her work experience included a stint in St. Maarten manning one of the Early Childhood Education sites, eleven years of teaching at North Union Secondary school and tutoring at the St. Vincent Teachers’ College in Health and Family Life Education. She later tutored teachers in Early Child Education at the St. Vincent Teachers’ College as well as conducted workshops at that institution and was a facilitator/teacher with the Distance Education students at what was then the UWI Extra-Mural Department.

Mrs. Hull-Ballah holds a Certificate in Health and Family Life, a Bachelor of Education degree, with 1st class Honours, in Early Childhood Education from Mona, UWI, an M.Sc in Applied Professional Studies in Education from the University of Surrey in England. Her training and experience took her to Bristol, England, where she did work with four Early Childhood Institutions. In exchange, ECE specialists travelled from Bristol to SVG and shared their ECE experiences with some centres here. As a result, three Pre-Schools in Bristol partnered with three Pre-schools here – (St. Benedict, A H Child Development Centre and Rose Bank Schools).

As this indomitable woman recollects her sojourn in early childhood education, she shares that this term was not a “buzz word”. Instead terms like “ABC” and “Infant School” were words associated with educating the young child. She mentioned that children were given the opportunity to “play”, but teachers had no idea of the philosophical implications of play. Kindergarten classrooms were stimulating with “Wendy Houses” and children engaged in dramatic play. Phonics was the order of the day and children could spell using the phonetic approach by the age of seven. She highlights: “Maximum use was made of the outdoor classroom. Under the tree and behind the school were the scenes for storytelling, nursery rhymes, poems and games.” Teachers were so enthused about teaching that they remained after school to prepare teaching materials for the work to be done in the following week. For this long standing educator, one of the exhilarating and memorable experiences in those years in early childhood education is her journey to Israel to work with practitioners from around the Globe –India, Thailand, Nepal, Kenya, Erithrea, Ethiopia, the Cameroon, to name a few, to plan programmes for Early Childhood Education. For her it was a rich and diverse experience.

Mrs. Hull-Ballah credits the success of the early childhood programme during her years to persons like Winnifred King, Agnes Cordice – Infant Organizers, and Annette Liverpool who taught Infant Methods at the Teachers’ College. She further gave credit to Mrs. Millicent Iton, who was instrumental in establishing the (crèche) in Stubbs, Chateaubelair and Calliaqua. In her recollection she further shares: “One thing that was lacking during those early 60s and 70s was the provision of Minimum Standards for the operation of Pre-Schools and Day Care centres. This resulted in the disparity in terms of quality. Pedagogical policy is extremely important. This type of policy is to give shape, and content to the quality of early childhood institutions.”

Today, Mrs. Hull-Ballah who established the Biabou Pre-school in 1982 is still actively engaged in early childhood education. As Programme Co-ordinator of the Roving Caregivers Programme she still shows teachers how to use “trashables to make teachables”. Her passion for this field of work is evident when she posits: “The Roving Caregivers’ Programme speaks volumes when it comes to development of the brain in the early years, and this is done through a home – based stimulation program. There is so much that I can share but time will not permit me.”

We take our hats off and salute this spirited and resolute early childhood pioneer.