KINGSTON – Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness, has called for a revival of the partnership involving the church, endowment trusts, and the Government for the establishment of more schools across the island.
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Red Hills Primary School in St. Andrew on Tuesday March 29, Mr. Holness lamented what he described as a "significant slowing down" of the infrastructure partnership and general philanthropic efforts, which existed in Jamaica for more than two centuries that resulted in the establishment of many of the island's existing traditional learning institutions.
“If you were to look at the expansion of education in Jamaica over the, let's say, (last) 200 years, the expansion was very rapid with the churches and the trusts. In fact, if you look at the traditional high schools, those schools were built between the last 100 years to the last 200 years, and they were built in co-operation with churches and trusts. Since then, we have not had any new established schools being built under this partnership,” he pointed out.
He said the Government is desirous of re-engaging the churches in efforts to expand the education sector and is working closely with a number of bodies to restart the building process. “We have at least two such projects on our books; one is scheduled to start this year, and as soon as we finalise with the other entity, we would, probably, start that one early next year,” he informed.
Mr. Holness pointed out that the Red Hills All-age School, soon to be Red Hills Primary School, has benefitted from a long association with the Methodist Church, on whose property it has been sited since the institution’s establishment 200 years ago.
The Minister, further, made an impassioned plea for greater input from the wider society. He argued that there are many Jamaicans and organisations in possession of land and other resources, who are in a position to contribute to the growth of education, and invited these stakeholders to make their contributions the Ministry’s National Education Trust (NET).
“There are many persons, who would like to leave their estate to a worthy cause. Just two weeks ago, an American couple, who lived in Jamaica for some time, they passed on; they had a country home here, and they left their estate to a school in Montego Bay, quite a significant estate and that will go a far way in improving education there. You cannot leave a greater mark for the generations to come than a school,” he contended.
He also cited the example of the Mico institutions, including the Mico University College, which were set up through the estate of Lady Mico, who willed, nearly three centuries ago, that upon her death, her vast estate should be utilised for the education of children in the region.
“So, if you want to ensure that your name lives on, give to a school. Contribute to the development of a school; your life would have touched thousands of lives. I would say to our Jamaicans who are wealthy, Jamaicans who have done well, consider creating other trusts, like the Lady Mico Trust, that will benefit a generation for years to come,” Minister Holness said.
The Red Hills Primary School is being built at a cost of $256 million. The new institution, which will accommodate 630 students, will comprise 18 new classrooms, a library, wheelchair ramps, administrative block, performing arts and multi-purpose rooms, an upgraded playfield, and a multi-purpose hard court.
The project, slated to be executed within the next 12 months, will be undertaken by the firm, Alcar Construction Limited.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter