The Friendship Infant School, located in Strawberry, Westmoreland, was officially opened on Wednesday (Sept. 12), by Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites.
The 100-student capacity school, constructed through $21 million in funding from the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, boasts modern facilities, furniture and equipment.
It is the first of 10 early childhood institutions being built by CHASE at a cost of $260 million, as part of the Jamaica 50 Legacy Project, and the first one to be opened in Jamaica's Golden Jubilee year.
The school opened its doors to the first 25 students for the new academic year on September 3.
Addressing staff, students, parents, and community members, who attended the opening ceremony, Rev. Thwaites, stressed the need for parents to place priority on their children’s education.
"Jamaica has to change its priorities and focus them, once again, on early childhood, and particularly on schools, such as this one, now established in this community. Women of Friendship and Strawberry… take care of your children’s needs before your personal needs.
"The money for school, books and other necessities for your children is more important than the nails and the hair styles and the bashment … all of those things have their place. But they don’t come before subscribing and supporting your child’s education; those things come first,” he stated.
Minister of Youth and Culture, Hon. Lisa Hanna, who attended the function, said she was pleased to participate in the unveiling of the first of the Jamaica 50 Legacy projects.
"It is with a great sense of pride, on behalf of my Ministry and the Jamaica 50 Secretariat, that we say congratulations to the community of Friendship. This is your school. Nurture it, take care of it, honour it, because there are going to be prime ministers, doctors, lawyers, nurses and farmers who will be products of this great institution that we are unveiling,” she stated.
Chief Executive Officer of the CHASE Fund, Billy Heaven, in presenting the keys to the institution to the Education Minister, noted the importance of early childhood education to the country’s progress.
"In the language of business, early childhood education is the growth sector and it represents the future of our country. Early childhood education is an economic driver, not an economic drag, even if the budget is tight," he said.
Mr. Heaven appealed to community members and all stakeholders “to take care of this investment. Do not destroy it, because, in so doing, you may just be destroying the future of this country."