JIS News

Principal of the Zion Hill Basic School in Above Rocks, St. Catherine, Miss Gerda Wright, will be going back to her school next week with a smile on her face.
At a two-day fair, held recently at the Social Development Commission (SDC) office in Spanish Town, Miss Wright received school supplies and other much needed items, which would assist in the educational development of the 40 students attending the institution.
Zion Hill Basic is one of some 165 schools in the parish to benefit from donations of story books, desks, chairs, beds, teachers’ desks, first aid supplies, learning aids, appliances and cleaning agents for the start of the 2009/10 school year.
The donation was made possible through the kind efforts of the SDC’s members, who partnered with the Early Childhood Commission (ECC), the Ministry of Education and Food for the Poor, to provide the items obtained from international donors.
“I am grateful for the items. It will make teaching a little easier for me, and the children will be more comfortable with them. I am really grateful to the SDC for all these items, especially the books, desks, the bed and the chairs,” Miss Wright tells JIS News.
The staff of the school and the parents of students had held several events to raise funds to purchase the items, but the money raised was not enough.
“Unfortunately, we did not get enough money to offset some of our expenses, so this has really filled a gap that we were not able to fill on our own,” the teacher says.
Miss Wright says she is very happy to receive the colourful story books. “The children love reading. This will add to the collection that I have and I know that they are going to really dig into these books. I am bursting at the seam with joy for these books,” she adds.
Although very grateful for the gifts, she says that some other items are needed at the school, such as a refrigerator, a stove, a fire extinguisher and smoke detectors.
“I can’t wait to get those. That is our foremost aim now. It is going to take a large chunk of cash which we don’t have, but we are hoping that God will give us the strength that we can reach out and try something on our own to make it work for the new school year,” she tells JIS News.
Another teacher, Gloria Christian, from Temple Light Basic School in Old Harbour, St. Catherine, received similar items from the SDC.
“It will enhance the children’s learning. Some parents can’t afford to pay school fees, so this really is a good gesture to help them. Some parents can’t even afford the colouring books. We have not received a lot, but we can work with what we have by rotating them among the students,” points outs.
The idea to help the schools was the vision of the SDC Parish Manager, Edith Morrison, who says that the project began last year, after an assessment of basic schools in the parish.
“We saw where a number of them were ill-equipped and could not be registered and we recognised that there is a need for early childhood agencies and the children to get a good start,” she adds.
“With that in mind we started the task of partnering with other agencies, private individuals and private sector agencies, which can come to the help of these schools and to get them ready,” Mrs. Morrison explains.
She notes that the SDC will be working with those schools with the most urgent needs. There are approximately 200 basic schools in the parish.
Mrs. Morrison says that in helping the basics schools, the SDC is simply trying to fulfill its mandate, ‘Putting the Community Centre Stage, To Unite, Plan And Act’, and to facilitate the improvement in the quality of output of the early childhood institutions in the parish.
“What I want to put in the basic schools next is a feeding programme, so the children can get at least one meal per day. I am working on that now with the basic schools and I am hoping we will be able to get that in place by the end of December,” she tells JIS News.
Acting Research Co-ordinator at the SDC, Kimberly Seymour, says that the selection of schools for assistance was done by the SDC after careful examination of the schools’ profiles, including the number of students, the area each school serves and the immediate needs of each school.
“We cannot supply everyone, but we really want to lift the bar, especially for those schools that are really trying and that really need it for the children,” Miss Seymour says, adding that the aim is to make the school environment comfortable for the children, so they can learn.
There are approximately 3,000 early childhood institutions operating across Jamaica. Since November 2007, the Ministry of Education began the compulsory registration of the institutions in an effort to improve the quality of service to children at that level.

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