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Story Highlights

  • Founder and Principal of the Challenge Basic School in Montego Bay, Eileen McIntosh, stands as an example of what can be achieved through perseverance, self-belief and faith in God.
  • She overcame tremendous odds, including the death of her parents and interruption of her formal education, to achieve her dream of starting her own school and contributing to the development of young minds at the early childhood level.
  • For her dedicated and meritorious service to education, Mrs. McIntosh was on National Heroes Day (October 20) honoured with the prestigious Sam Sharpe Award by the St. James Parish Council.

Founder and Principal of the Challenge Basic School in Montego Bay, Eileen McIntosh, stands as an example of what can be achieved through perseverance, self-belief and faith in God.

She overcame tremendous odds, including the death of her parents and interruption of her formal education, to achieve her dream of starting her own school and contributing to the development of young minds at the early childhood level.

For her dedicated and meritorious service to education, Mrs. McIntosh was on National Heroes Day (October 20) honoured with the prestigious Sam Sharpe Award by the St. James Parish Council.

The role model, educator and community worker was born in Pierces Village, Hanover, and started attending the Mount Peto Primary School in the parish at age eight, two years later than most students. This, she tells JIS News, was due to the death of her father when she was six years old.

The death of her mother, when she was 14 years old, ended her formal education for good, as she had to leave school to care for her younger sister.

“Although I did not get much schooling, I know I was a gifted child.  I could read and write from early and while in school I was asked to write letters for adults in the community, who could not manage the reading and writing too well.  As a go-getter, I went in search of employment in a number of schools and did short periods of pre-trained teaching at some of these schools,” Mrs. McIntosh tells JIS News.

Her vision was to establish her own school, and she kept pushing towards her goal and in 1984, with the support and assistance from her church, she opened the Challenge Basic School on Water Lane, with 13 students.

Within a year, attendance soared to 100.  Today, there are some 111students on roll, with some nine members of staff.  Approximately 3,000 students have graduated from the institution to date, many holding their own in prominent occupations in society.

“Those students who attended my school in the early years were very brilliant children and were always doing very well in academics.  I believe that this was what really attracted so many parents to send their children to the school,” Mrs. McIntosh tells JIS News.

“Most parents from the central Montego Bay community and adjoining areas took the decision to support the school and so sent their children here.  Of note is the fact that every year, I have to be turning back students as there is not enough accommodation for the many that desire to be enrolled here at Challenge Basic School,” says the proud educator.

In 1995, Mrs. McIntosh was recognised by the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) as ‘Teacher of the Year’ and her school was named the ‘Best kept School’ in the region by the Ministry of Education that same year.

Her proudest achievement came in 2003, when she graduated from the Sam Sharpe Teachers’ College in Granville, as a trained teacher in early childhood education.

Mrs. McIntosh has been described as one who possesses “a heart of gold,” who offers a helping hand to many.

In addition to her years of dedicated service to education, Mrs. McIntosh is actively involved in the church, giving of her time and resources in helping the poor and less fortunate. She has been recognised for over 50 years of committed and unwavering service to the Montego Bay New Testament Church of God.

She tells JIS News that she felt “humbled and honoured” to have been selected for the prestigious Sam Sharpe Award.  She says that the award confirms that she had made the correct decision to positively impact the lives of the nation’s children.

Mrs. McIntosh says the award programme is “a very good move” on the part of the St. James Parish Council, as it recognises persons for their contributions to society.

“There are many unsung heroes who have been working for years without any form of recognition, appreciation or awards. I think that whoever instituted this award opportunity had a vision of expressing thanks to those who go the extra mile in building the lives of people and making communities better,” she tells JIS News.

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