Burnt Savannah Primary – 100 Years of Commitment to Education

Photo: JIS Photographer The original building constructed by the Government of Jamaica in 1914, to house the Burnt Savannah Primary School, in St. Elizabeth. The building is still being used today to house four classrooms.

Story Highlights

  • The Burnt Savannah Primary School, formerly the Burnt Savannah All Age School, in St. Elizabeth, has accomplished the enviable achievement of shaping young minds, for 100 years.
  • The school has been in operation since 1914, when the Government of Jamaica constructed the first building for the institution.
  • The student population has grown from some 280 to approximately 680, with an almost even split between boys and girls.

The Burnt Savannah Primary School, formerly the Burnt Savannah All Age School, in St. Elizabeth, has accomplished the enviable achievement of shaping young minds, for 100 years.

The school has been in operation since 1914, when the Government of Jamaica constructed the first building for the institution, to accommodate students who received their tutoring at the Baptist and Methodist churches in the area.

That building is still standing today, with four classrooms in operation, augmented by more recently built structures.

The student population has grown from some 280 to approximately 680, with an almost even split between boys and girls, from districts and communities within a five mile radius.

Past student, and Principal, Emily Smith, tells JIS News that the school now caters to students between the ages of five and 12 years old, with the Knoxford and Burnt Savannah Baptist Basic Schools serving as feeder institutions.

The Burnt Savannah Primary School itself serves as feeder school to institutions such as Hampton High, Munro College, Manchester High, St. Elizabeth Technical High, Black River, and Newell High schools.

Mrs. Smith pointed out that the achievements and successes of the school are numerous, academically and otherwise, producing many prominent leaders who reside and practice their respective professions and skills, locally and overseas. Among the national figures who is a former student of the school, is retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Charles Scarlet.

She notes that students have received scholarships, based on outstanding academic performances, and athletic talent. The school has also successfully competed in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JDC) competitions, the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) Clean Schools competition, and has an active 4H Club. Students have also won top prizes in Mathematics and Language Arts competitions over the years.

The Principal made special mention of Jamar Brown, who copped the National Spelling Bee championship in 2006, and later earned a scholarship to attend Munro College, where he is now in upper sixth form. He will be starting university in September.

Head of the institution since 2008, Mrs. Smith points out that 15 of the 19 other members of the current teaching staff, also attended the school.  She underscores the commitment of the staff as one of the strengths of the institution.

“The greatest strength of this institution is really its teachers.  The teachers are very dedicated, (they) will hear the bell in the evenings and will still be teaching because they must get this child to learn this concept,” she says.

She highlights one of the unique measures that have been developed to enhance the teaching and learning process. This involves the teachers carrying out an “ability grouping” among the students.

“Because we find that it is harder for the students, and also for the teachers, to have different levels in one classroom.  Because you will have like children who are reading at the Grade 9 level even in Grade 2, and you also have children who are reading at Grade 1, so we could not mix them, so we have the system where we do ability grouping,” she explains.

She says teachers volunteer to spend as much time as is necessary, and possible, with the students who need the most assistance.  It is this kind of care and special attention, which results in parents striving to ensure that their children get enrolled in Burnt Savannah Primary School.

Turning to challenges, Mrs. Smith highlights the shortage of classroom space and furniture as among the most pressing needs of the institution. She notes however, that with the help of the past students, the Parent/Teachers Association, and other generous individuals, the administration continues to do its best for the students.

Meanwhile, Regional Director for the Ministry of Education’s Region 5, Dr. Nadine Leachman, notes that being in existence for 100 years is not an easy achievement.

She congratulates past and present administrations for persevering over the years, adding that with the challenges in the education sector it is quite encouraging to see an institution continuing to do so well over the years.

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