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Students of the Half-Way-Tree Primary School, in Kingston, brought the curtains down on the Heritage Month outreach activities of the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) on Monday, October 29, when they, along with their visitors from the Ocklynge Junior School in England, toured the agency.

The students, who were also presented with heritage packages produced by the agency, were among hundreds from across the island who benefitted from the agency’s planned activities to mark Heritage Month in October, under the theme: ‘A Nation on a Mission, Our Heritage…The Foundation’.

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Speaking about her school’s participation in the JIS tour, Vice Principal at Half-Way-Tree Primary, Shelly Lee, says interfacing with the JIS staff and seeing how they work is beneficial to the students.  She notes that education extends beyond the classroom and books. 

“Experiences such as this will provide an opportunity of expression for them. It is an extension of what they see on the television and hear on the radio and allows them to actually see what JIS does,” she explains.  “They can now identify with what happens at the JIS the next time they hear or watch a JIS programme,” she adds.

During the month, the JIS Team meticulously selected 12 schools which would receive the gifts of educational material. The members journeyed to Westmoreland, Hanover, Trelawny, St. Ann, Manchester and St. Andrew to speak with the students about Jamaica’s rich history.

The schools, a mix of high and primary, were also presented with books, posters and DVDs, all produced by JIS, for their libraries and classrooms. 

“The JIS takes seriously its role to interpret and present Jamaica’s history.  We do this every day through our programmes on radio and television as well as through our website and publications,” says Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the JIS, Donna-Marie Rowe.

“We also take great pride in our outreach activities which include interacting with school children and delivering material to assist in teaching history and civics in school.  Additionally, we facilitate visits to our offices in order for students to see the production process.  This way, we build an appreciation for Jamaica, our history and the arms of Government,” she says.

The JIS Heritage Month outreach was well received by school officials and students across the island, who expressed gratitude for the opportunity to showcase their schools’ displays on Jamaica’s heritage.

Principal of Ulster Spring Primary, Florette Pingue, says: “Celebrating our heritage is very important. Our heroes and heroine have done so much for Jamaica, for which we are grateful."

 The school, which is located in the Cockpit Country, Trelwany, also has a rich history and proudly celebrates its past students, among whom is Olympian Michael Frater.

In the meantime, Principal of the Revival Primary School in Westmoreland, Helen Campbell, explains that the material will help the school to keep Jamaican customs and traditions alive.

“The materials will come in very handy, because we are going to use them to further enlighten our students about their heritage.  We can use them to enforce lessons when we are speaking about our heroes, the motto and symbols,” she notes.

High schools were equally receptive to the agency’s outreach mission.  Principal of Frome Technical High in Westmoreland, Sylvia Ricketts, explains that the school places much emphasis on Jamaica’s history and culture.

“We are interested in creating quality experience for our children… and a part of our focus is to have our students culturally aware.  We are re-enacting some of the things from yesteryear,” she says, in reference to the school’s Heritage Summit that was underway.

Over in Queen of Spain Valley, Wakefield, Trelawny, Principal of Muschette High, Leighton Johnson, points out that the recognition and celebration of Jamaica’s heritage is an important part of the school’s activities.

“Heritage is a key part of our culture at Muschette High, with the school being integrally involved in the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) Performing Arts competition,” he says. 

“We have received several awards – gold medals in speech, dance and drama,” Mr. Johnson recounts.  He notes that it is customary that the school hosts ‘Heritage Splash’, an event where students and teachers display their talent and knowledge of history.

He tells JIS News that the school is playing its part to mark Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee. “We are still in Jamaica 50 mode.  We are still a nation on a mission and we are a school on a mission and so we will be highlighting different aspects of our school’s culture, including people who have made a significant contribution to the school, which was where basketball player, Samardo Samuels, who now plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers, started,” he  says.

Schools in St. Ann were also happy to receive the JIS team. Acting Principal of the Parry Town Primary School since 2011, Beverley Rose, says: “I couldn’t miss this opportunity for anything else in the world. We’re here for a good reason…to educate our nation’s children,” she points out.

Similar sentiments were shared by Faylain Bryan, Principal of the Ocho Rios Methodist Basic School.  “JIS planned to be here and so we asked the parents to send them out, so that the children could see, hear, and learn more,” she tells JIS News.

Sharing some of the methods she uses to impart information about Jamaica’s history, Mrs. Bryan says proudly: “I love teaching and I love children. The babies are those I like to work with. We look at the heroes, we talk a little about them, let them collect pictures of the various heroes, teach them the national anthem and pledge, among other things,” Ms. Bryan says.