JIS News

Having the privilege to see the superb performance of the Sunshine Girls at the 11th World Netball Championships during the summer of 2003, 10 year-old Laura secretly harbours a dream of also representing her country in the sport.
For now, she eagerly anticipates being able to fully work on her skills to make the cut to represent her school’s netball team once the markings on the new netball court on the premises of her educational institution, Knox Junior School, are complete.
For Constance Malcolm, Principal of Knox Junior School, the new netball court, which will also be used to play volleyball, is the realization of efforts to further improve the physical education programme offered at the 57 year-old private institution located in Spaldings, Clarendon.
“We needed the infrastructure to do this, so we are very ecstatic about it,” she delightedly tells JIS News.
The story of realizing this dream is a rather interesting one, fraught with obstacles, but even more so punctuated with the triumph of determination, coupled with a few miracles.
As the Principal recalls it, the commitment to build the court commenced in earnest in 1999, when the school undertook fundraising activities to fund the project, having identified a site on the school property.
But the land where the site was identified was rather uneven, with large boulders jutting from the earth, making it unstable. However, Ms. Malcolm saw the potential of the property.
The School approached the then Alcan Jamaica Company (which was sold to Swiss Commodities Group, Glencore International AG earlier this year) to make the land user-friendly by grading it. This the company did, free of cost.
It took the school almost four years to raise $200,000 to officially commence the project. “We then hired some contractors to construct the court but the work was very substandard and shoddy,” Ms. Malcolm remembers.
It also did not help that the heavy rains in the area exacerbated the problems as it related to the court. “The court was being eroded and on top of that, because it was a bit uneven and very rough in places, many of our children kept having accidents on it,” the Principal reveals.
The decision was then taken to seek outside assistance. “It was just too difficult to go another four years without the court,” Ms. Malcolm says.
However, the Principal was wary of this approach. “With private entities like ours, the general consensus is that we would be able to do it on our own. Most times we try to get things done through our own inventiveness and creativity,” the Principal points out.
The private school, it must be noted, is part of a complex of schools, which includes a basic and high school, and a community college, all of which are government aided, and are located on one large campus.
Being the only private entity on the campus, Ms. Malcolm explains that the school funds 99 per cent of the ventures undertaken.
It was a long shot, Ms. Malcolm says, but the school approached the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) in April for funding via a letter.
For a while there was no response. However, last summer, the SDF called and said they were coming to fix the court. “We were so happy for the intervention,” Ms. Malcolm recounts, adding, “it was not often that a private entity makes a request and receives a positive response”.
Mr. Denzil Wilks, General Manager of the SDF, tells JIS News that having received the request for assistance from the school, the committee in their wisdom, acquiesced to meet the school’s needs.
“We do respond to some requests and also take the initiative in finding projects to assist,” he informs.The request passed through three committees – Allocation and Projects and if deemed worthwhile, it then goes to Finance to determine if it can be financed, then finally, the matter is decided on by the Board.
As for what the SDF did over the summer, Ms. Malcolm says that the court was completely resurfaced. “It is a full size netball court. The original dimension was 100 feet by 50 feet, but when SDF resurfaced it, it was extended somewhat,” she says happily.
At a cost of $600,000, the court was completed over the summer, with only the markings on the court for netball and volleyball as well as the volleyball posts, to be added.
“We want to do other things on it, but it is not yet an enclosed area. So it will be volleyball and netball for the time being, but the intention is to mark it for a number of purposes, which will include basketball,” the Principal notes.
Laura is among the 240 students, who have been enjoying the new facility. Indeed, the student body is not the only group benefiting from the new court. “Sometimes the churches ask to borrow it when they have their functions and also, the local youth clubs will ask to use it,” she discloses.
“As long as permission is sought and they are able to take care of the facilities, they have it to use. We recognize that there are not a lot of facilities like this around here, ” the Principal adds.
Ms. Malcolm notes however, that sometimes the boys “get out of hand” and use the court to play football, which is not allowed, though generally all who use the court take care of it.
The court, the Principal further notes, will be maintained through internal financial avenues. In the very near future, she says that the school will examine the possibility of securing the area by putting up a fence.
The SDF was founded in 1995 to assist in sports development initiatives in Jamaica. It currently receives its funding from the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, whose mandate is to receive, distribute and administer monetary contributions from the lottery companies.
The Fund has allocated 40 per cent of the contributions to the SDF, while 20 percent is allotted to the area of health, 25 per cent towards to early childhood education and the remaining 15 per cent made available for the areas of art and culture.

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