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Bethlehem has just celebrated its 45th anniversary. This nursery and kindergarten, founded by the late France Boyer de la Giroday, is under the leadership of Sylvette Paris-Davy. It offers an educational program adapted to the individual needs of each child.

It is 11 am when we reach Bethlehem, located on Edith Cavell Street, in Port-Louis. In her office, Sylvette Paris-Davy, the principal, is busy with meticulousness. Passionate about the well-being of her students, she ensures that they flourish fully in a healthy environment, favoring a differentiated pedagogy that distinguishes Bethlehem from other schools.

On June 28, the establishment celebrated its 45th anniversary. Founded by the late France Boyer de la Giroday, this nursery and preschool was placed under the leadership of Sylvette Paris-Davy. As part of this anniversary, Bethléem opened its doors to us to share its history and mission with the community.

Sylvette Paris-Davy guides us through the school. Each burst of laughter from the children resonates like an enchanted melody through the different classrooms, colorful and joyful, reminding us that the education of little ones is a symphony where love, care and discoveries blend harmoniously. Each moment spent here represents a precious note in the book of their development. “Our mission is to be a school of life for life,” says Sylvette Paris-Davy.

“The Bethlehem crèche, under the Diocese of Port-Louis, is a pilot project linked to the childcare school. Inaugurated in June 1979, at the dawn of the International Year of the Child, it was founded by the late Miss France Boyer de la Giroday, a distinguished social worker committed to the cause of women, girls and families. It also benefited from the close collaboration of the late Father Eugène Dethise,” explains Sylvette Paris-Davy. Having anticipated the rapid industrialization of the country, and faced with the absence of childcare facilities, they knew that caring for children would be a problem when mothers went to work in factories.

For her part, Sylvette Paris-Davy dreamed of becoming a nurse to take care of children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. But fate decided otherwise, and she had to abandon her dreams. Fortunately, she met France Boyer de la Giroday, who took her under her wing. “France entrusted me with this project. We worked hard, traveling the suburbs of the capital to talk to mothers and recruit students,” remembers the director of Bethléem.

The first stone of the nursery was laid by Bishop Jean Margéot on August 22, 1978. “At the same time, I began my training with Dr. Cyril Dalais, consulting psychologist and director of the Joint Child Health and Education Project, in partnership with a team of educational psychologists from Denmark and the MIE for early childhood education,” she adds.

The Bethlehem nursery and training school was established at the Misereor centre, in a picturesque setting surrounded by mountains and the oldest and only racecourse, the Champ-de-Mars. On 28 June 1979, Bethlehem officially opened its doors. The inauguration, presided over by Lady Pouspa Burrenchobay, marked the reception of its first 20 children and aspiring childcare assistants.

Aware that the first years of life are crucial for the optimal development of each child, France Boyer de la Giroday and Father Dethise designed the nursery with a clear vision: to collaborate with parents to promote the development and harmonious growth of toddlers, in a stimulating environment that encourages their psychosocial, emotional and physical development. At the same time, the training school aims to prepare competent childcare assistants, capable of providing quality care and supporting the physical, emotional and intellectual development of children through a variety of activities adapted to their individual pace, needs and interests.

France Boyer de la Giroday and Father Dethise placed great hope in Sylvette Paris-Davy to run the nursery. She invested herself fully in the classes for the first two years after it opened. At the time, there were no nurseries that applied best practices for the well-being and development of children. Sylvette Paris-Davy wanted Bethléem to become a renowned nursery, offering quality education.

After working for a year at the nursery under the guidance of Myriam Narainsamy, training director at the childcare training school, Sylvette Paris-Davy decided to improve her knowledge. “I expressed the wish to continue my studies and deepen my knowledge, to acquire skills and positive attitudes that advocate good practices in the art of raising and educating young children. That’s when I was offered a scholarship through the Miseréor institution in Germany, from 1981 to 1984, to study at the teacher training school in France,” she says.

After her three years of studies, Sylvette Paris-Davy returned home, enriched with new knowledge and skills. She was determined to raise the level of the Bethlehem nursery, transforming it into a leading center for awakening, education, and socialization.

“I imbued the Bethlehem crèche with solid principles through my educational project, which aimed to promote the education of young children and to offer ongoing support to families. France welcomed my project with kindness. I was her hope to propel and ensure the evolution of this pioneering crèche,” she recalls. Sick, France Boyer de la Giroday awaited her return home. “She told me: ‘I was waiting for you to die.’” She knew that Sylvette Paris-Davy would take up the torch with dignity.

Since then, Sylvette Paris-Davy has been running the nursery with kindness, always putting the interests of the children first. Bethlehem, in close collaboration with parents, offers a safe and stimulating environment, promoting the development and full blossoming of children. “We must recognize and welcome each child with their differences, allowing them to develop with empathy, and promote their self-esteem. It is also important to establish and maintain a warm human quality relationship by allowing the child to gradually emerge from their dependency, to acquire their autonomy and socialization.”

Bethlehem advocates inclusion. Sylvette Paris-Davy insists: all children must have the chance to flourish. “We welcome the child and their parents, regardless of their socio-cultural and economic level. We promote the inclusion of children with special needs and offer them a support plan in partnership with a multidisciplinary team,” she emphasizes.

Bethlehem ensures that every child receives a basic education that is beneficial for their future learning, also placing a strong emphasis on children's rights. In addition, the institution encourages parents, the first educators of their children, to actively participate in the awakening and learning program. In this way, Bethlehem cultivates and extends good practices from the nursery to the home.

Sylvette Paris-Davy talks about the importance of recognizing that each child progresses at their own pace. According to her, it is essential to respect their needs, understand their desires, interests, concerns and abilities, while supporting them in their learning with kindness. “I have a very dedicated staff that I can always count on. Like me, my staff is focused on the well-being and development of the children.”

She expresses pride in Bethlehem's accomplishments since it opened. She also hopes that one day the training school will rise from the ashes, providing quality training to people who want to pursue careers in early childhood.

The different locations:

  • Bethlehem rue Edith Cavell, Port-Louis: Preschool, Kindergarten
  • Bethlehem rue D'Estaing, Port-Louis: Nursery, Preschool
  • Bethlehem Quatre-Bornes: Nursery, School

In numbers

50

Number of activities each year

100

Number of educators

500

Number of children

Good to know

Bethlehem educators are trained at the Bethlehem Training School and the Institute of Pedagogy. They have gained experience through internships with children aged 3 to 5.

The Bethlehem team prioritizes breastfeeding for its essential nutrients and ensures that each baby is nourished and hydrated. From 6 months, it gradually introduces food diversification in collaboration with the parents, following the recommendations of the pediatrician. At the age of one, it offers children milk or an alternative of their choice, according to the parents' preferences.

The nursery also offers a vegetarian menu, with the option for parents to specify their dietary preferences when registering their child.

As for the activity program, it is designed quarter by quarter, taking into account surveys reflecting the child's real world, needs and interests. The activities are closely linked to the child's developmental stages and learning areas.
The learning experience is organized into three sections tailored to the unique needs of children in various age groups: nursery (3 months to 2 years), preschool (2 to 3 years), and kindergarten (4 to 5 years).

Each section allows each child to benefit from an educational environment adapted to their stage of development, promoting healthy growth, personal development and enriching interactions with other children of their age.

A haven for early childhood

At Bethlehem, activities are linked to the child's developmental stages and learning areas. The nursery, preschool and kindergarten sections are designed to allow children to fully develop in an environment adapted to their needs.

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