MANDEVILLE — Children of Brandon Hill and surrounding communities, in Clarendon, are now in an environment more conducive to learning, as the new spacious Evelyn Mitchell Infant School/Centre of Excellence, which is equipped with modern facilities, has been opened.
At the recent handing over of the school to the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), by the Cari-Med Foundation, which built the school at a cost of $70 million, Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding urged residents of the community to protect the facilities.
“This is the community’s property, this is the community’s institution, and it is the community’s ladder to prosperity and success. Therefore, you must protect it, and you must make it serve the purpose for which it is intended,” the Prime Minister said.
The new school is a merger of four early childhood institutions in Brandon Hill and surrounding communities, namely Top Hill, Brandon Hill, Turtle Pond and Johnnies Hill. Education will be free for children attending this institution, as stipulated by the Ministry of Education.
“It is never easy to ask a community to close its school, and I thank the Boards, Principals and members of staff from all the participating institutions who were willing to sacrifice for the greater good,” says Chairman and Founder of the Cari-Med Foundation, and a native of Brandon Hill, Glen Christian.
The complex contains a block with four self-contained classrooms, which have their own restrooms; an external teaching area; an administrative block, which houses a principal’s office, a reception area, a library, a sick bay, a kitchenette and other features.
“This school is now part of a far-reaching effort to educate our people. An educated population means a more skilled workforce, placing Jamaica in a better position to exploit all the opportunities the information age presents for national development,” Mr. Christian said.
For Acting Principal, Maureen Lumsden, the institution will help to educate the children to be better persons in their communities. “We are immensely grateful for the establishment of this school, and what it stands for. There is hope for a better and brighter Jamaica, and I want to see the best of our students from this institution. There will be children who will excel to the very top,” she said.
Meanwhile, Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness said the school is one of the best facilities in the island, and the Ministry will provide all the support it needs to educate the children.
Named in honour of Mr. Christian’s mother, Evelyn Mitchell, the school is the first Centre of Excellence for early childhood education that has been certified by the Early Child Commission (ECC).
“We know that the early childhood period is when there is the most rapid period of brain growth and development. It sets the foundation for who we are going to be as adults,” said ECC Chairman, Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan.
“With this knowledge, the Early Childhood Commission has set standards to ensure a high quality of education for every child in this country. With the opening of the Evelyn Mitchell Infant School, the Commission celebrates with the Government and the Cari-Med Foundation, as the partnership has got it right for the children. This investment will reap immediate benefits as they can be expected to learn at an accelerated rate,” she said.
For parents, Karen McKenzie and Wesley Francis, the school is very important to the community and it will be protected.
“What we have here is one of the best facilities in the island. I will do my best in every capacity, to work and ensure that the school accomplishes great results in preparing our future – the children,” Mr. Francis said.
“We will take care of it, and be the ‘watchmen’, because our children are safer here, and the additional facilities make it very nice for the children and the teachers,” said Miss McKenzie.
The school has a population of 100 students and 10 teachers. A bus has been donated to the school by the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund, to transport children from distant communities.
By GARFIELD ANGUS