JIS News

In the small district of Golden Valley, St. Thomas, home to 350 households, a lone basic school and flagship structure bearing the name of the community for the past 40 years, is in danger of losing its status.
The school has applied to the Early Childhood Commission (ECC) for a Certificate of Registration and has been inspected for recommendation, based on 12 standards established by the ECC. But even as the school awaits the result, it is still without the necessary facilities and stands no chance on three counts – physical environment, health and nutrition.
“We have had an estimate done for the leaking roof and to refurbish the rat infested, abandoned kitchen and bathroom; we also need to extend the building and build a play area for the kids, especially for when it rains,” Head Mistress of the Golden Valley Basic School for 31 years, Eunice Depass Spencer, reveals in an interview with JIS News.
But things are about to change; thanks to some determined community members, supported by the neighbouring communities of White Hall to the west, Water Valley to the east and Torrington to the south.
“We are having a fair on Sunday (November 28) and it will serve many purposes,” says Mrs. Depass Spencer.
She admits that the school, in its current state, can no longer serve the community, after 40 years.
“We are going to have fun and at the same time try to raise money to fix the school, we are going to have as many fairs and other activities as it takes, to raise the $800,000 that we need,” she boasts.
Her brother, George Cole, and a youthful team, supported by members of a committee which she chairs, were busy preparing the playing field adjacent to the school for the event.
“The youths are excited about the up-coming event a police team is coming from Morant Bay, Yallahs and two other places to play cricket with us; we also have a domino tournament and football matches we have invited the Fire Brigade and the Health Centre to do free blood tests we are trying to secure a bounce-about for the kids and we are going to cook our traditional dishes, including wild hog for sale, as well as drinks from which we hope to raise some money,” she states.
“I won’t delude myself to think it is easy to raise that kind of money easily, but I am confident the communities can help sustain a good level of support which can make a difference we need all we can get; the faster the better, but we will persevere we have a productive farming community with potential for ecotourism.” Mrs. Depass Spencer adds.
Located some 45 miles from Kingston, high above the town of Seaforth, Golden Valley is dwarfed by the majesty of the Blue Mountains, on one side, and the scenic Craighead Hills, on the other. It is bordered by the communities of Middleton, Spring Garden, Soho and White Hall. Its watershed, the Plantain Garden River, approximately two chains from the basic school, is used for washing and bathing, especially when there is no water in the mains.
The watershed area is believed to have some potential for ecotourism, although it is not on the list of attractions recognised by the Tourism Product Development Company (TPDCO).
Golden Valley is mainly a farming community with approximately 250 farmers, most of whom are elderly men and women, as the younger folks do not do any farming, although unemployment is high in the area, observes Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) Extension Officer, Norman Haughton.
He says that a lot of the farming takes place in the hilly terrain of the watershed area, with gungo peas, pineapple, plantain, bananas, breadfruit, ackee and ginger, the main crops. There is also some vegetable production and pig and goat rearing in the area. Most of the ground provisions are sold to higglers, who sell at Coronation Market in downtown Kingston.
“Not much happens in Golden Valley,” Mr. Haughton states.
“There is no business in the area, so we need to develop projects for the community, for funding by JSIF, EU, USAID and so on to attract the youth,” he says, citing bee, pig and goat rearing as possibilities.
“I doubt any of these farmers sell $10,000 a month,” he adds.
However, there is one other bright spot for Golden Valley: approximately 70 farmers are involved in coffee production, according to an official at the Mavis Bank Coffee Factory Limited.
But, Mrs. Depass Spence has no doubt that even with such a small economic base, the target will be raised.
“We have White Hall and many of the larger communities behind us and we are determined to keep the spirit of Golden Valley Basic School alive. It has existed for 40 years, and we want to maintain it for future generations here in particular, and for the parish generally,” she said.
The school is one of 119 basic schools in St. Thomas, the parish which produced National Heroes, the Right Excellent Paul Bogle, and his associate, the Right Excellent George William Gordon.

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