Improvement works, totaling $35.4 million, have been completed at the Newlands Basic School in Portmore, St. Catherine.
The project was jointly funded by the Government and the European Union (EU) under its Poverty Reduction Programme II (PRP II) facility. Residents of Newlands and neighbouring communities also contributed the equivalent of approximately $11.9 million to the overall cost.
The Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF) spearheaded implementation of the project, which will benefit some 95 pupils and seven staff members. The work, which entailed expansion of the facilities, included construction of four classrooms, bathroom facilities, a driveway, sickbay, kitchen, and administrative, play, and parking areas.
Further enhancement of the facilities is expected with a commitment from State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade and Member of Parliament for East Central St. Catherine, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, to provide computers during the 2013/14 financial year.
Speaking at the ribbon cutting and formal handing over ceremony at the school on Wednesday, February 27, State Minister Brown assured that, “we are committed to providing some resources” to facilitate provision of the computers.
“We believe that the use of technology as a teaching tool and a teaching aid is very important in enhancing the learning environment and the quality of the delivery of educational services,” he stated.
Noting that Newlands is the second school in the area to benefit under PRP II, following Gregory Park Primary School last year, Mr. Brown said the residents are “eternally grateful” for the partnership between the Government and the EU, which has yielded substantial provisions at both institutions.
In her remarks, Head of the EU Delegation in Jamaica, Her Excellency Ambassador Paola Amadei, underscored the organisation’s priority focus on early childhood education.
She contended that a sound educational foundation “is critical to the wholesome development of all children, if they are to be adequately prepared for future learning.”
“It is for this reason that I am particularly pleased that the support that we have provided for this (Newlands Basic) and other schools is in line with the national standards established by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC),” Ambassador Amadei said.
For her part, JSIF’s Managing Director, Scarlette Gillings, emphasised the importance placed on early childhood development by the Government, and commended the residents for being involved in the partnership, through their contribution to the development.
Early Childhood Commission Regional Supervisor, Tracy-Ann Morgan, described the development as a “positive way forward for early childhood development in Jamaica and the (Caribbean) region.”
She also underscored the importance of having well equipped early childhood institutions, such as Newlands Basic School, islandwide to ensure equity in the delivery of education to the targeted cohort. This, she pointed out, would provide the foundation for attaining the provisions of the National Development Plan, Vision 2030 Jamaica.
The Plan seeks to position Jamaica to acquire developed country status, thereby making it the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business.
Newlands Basic School’s Principal, Angela Dawes, in expressing gratitude to the Government and EU, urged that care be taken to maintain the facility, to ensure its preservation over the long term.