The start of the 2018 academic year was a significant one for the Mineral Heights Primary School in Clarendon, Jamaica, as, for the first time, all 1,500 students were accommodated at school on the same shift.
On a recent tour of the school, Operations Officer at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Karl Pivott, expressed delight at the success of the project, which was facilitated through a $94.9 million grant fund from the CDB, enabling the school to be removed from the shift system. The project, implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), saw the construction of 12 new classrooms and a sanitation block.
The CDB sees education as playing a crucial role in the social and economic development of its member countries, and so it has been helping several schools in Jamaica to be removed from the shift system, Mr. Pivott shares with JIS News.
The Mineral Heights Primary School is situated in a middle-income community, but many of its students are from poorer communities nearby. Many receive government assistance through the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), a social-intervention programme that targets the most needy and vulnerable in society.
Mr. Pivott says the CDB is happy that the project has impacted so many lives and that the students are now being exposed to a variety of co-curricular activities that were previously limited under the shift system.
Mr. Pivott is even more pleased with the successes in academics, as well as the fact that students are now able to go home earlier in the day, which was a safety concern.
“Education is a cornerstone for the social and economic development of CDB’s borrowing member countries. All children, especially from the disadvantaged section of society, should enjoy a full curriculum and have the opportunity to attend extracurricular activities to develop their capacities to become accomplished members of the society. By doing so, we break the cycle of poverty,” CDB Director of Projects, Daniel Best, adds.
Prior to the investment by CDB, Mineral Heights Primary operated on a shift basis with one set of students coming in from 7:00 a.m. to midday, while the second set attended from midday to 4:45 p.m.
Principal Lanzeford Howell explains that it was the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) that reached out to JSIF to help solve the chronic space shortage, which saw just over 1,500 students having to fit into 18 classrooms.
He notes that Mineral Heights Primary is a school of choice, and before the intervention, the class sizes were averaging one teacher to 52 students. This has been reduced significantly to one teacher to 35 students. The school has also put in place a programme for children who are physically challenged. A new classroom has been tailored specifically to their needs.
“The aim of the school is to give children a solid foundation, so that they may move on from Mineral Heights Primary, get secondary-level education and do well; ultimately breaking the cycle of poverty in some of these areas,” Principal Howell says.
He notes that increased contact time with teachers this year and smaller class sizes have had significant impact on the education of the students.
Mr. Howell boasts that the school has recorded its greatest percentage of mastery level in numeracy at 85 per cent this year, improving from a previous low of 57 to 60 per cent.
He also exclaims that in the last external examinations (Primary Exit Profile), one of the students was awarded a government scholarship.
The principal states that parents and students now have renewed interest in the school. “It has transformed the ethos of the school, the pride with which the children walk through the gates,” he reveals.
Being off the shift system has resulted in an expanded co-curricular programme. The school now participates in quiz, debating, spelling bee, and the chess team is the champion for the parish of Clarendon.
Mineral Heights Primary is also Champion for the Clarendon Parish Library Quiz Competition as well as The Mico University Mathematic Olympiad competition.
Students have also been excelling in sports. “We have students moving on to high school through track and field scholarships,” the Principal boasts.
“We are doing well, as a result of us now being able to do more co-curricular activities,” he concedes.
He expresses gratitude to the PTA, JSIF and the CDB for their intervention, “the fruits of which we are still reaping”.
“Mineral Heights Primary, through this assistance, has been transformed. Educationally we are better. The teachers are more comfortable, and the parents feel proud of the school,” Mr. Howell says.
Speaking at a recent tour of the school, several of the students shared that they appreciate the improvements, as they get more time with their teachers and are able to go home earlier.