Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, returned to her Marlie Hill roots in St. Catherine on Friday, June 21, to break ground for the construction of a $24 million early childhood institution on the grounds of the primary school, which she attended.
The project is being funded by the Culture, Health, Arts, Science and Education (CHASE) Fund, and will comprise a new two-classroom building with kitchen and sanitary facilities, sick bay, and an administrative block.
The Marlie Hill Basic School will also be equipped with furniture, kitchen appliances, play equipment, and other amenities to meet the requirements of the Early Childhood Commission (EEC).
Addressing the ground breaking event in front of an audience that included some of her relatives, Mrs. Simpson Miller expressed pride at being associated with the Marlie Hill community and the primary school.
She fondly recalled the days when she and others traversed the hilly terrain to and from school. The Prime Minister thanked the teachers, who played a role in her early development and senior residents of Wood Hall, Bellefield, Marlie Hill and surrounding areas, who took care of her and the other children, noting that “we were always protected.”
She called for a return to traditional values, when the community protected children and kept them from harm.
“What we have to recapture are those values that were imparted to us by our parents, to love, to care, to share….I am longing for the day when we do not hear of our children being abused,” she stated.
The Prime Minister charged the parents to “take care of the children and keep them close to you,” while condemning those “who feel that they have the right to abuse a child.”
The Prime Minister further urged adults to treat the children right as “the child you see today can be a great leader for tomorrow,” adding that “with the children, the country stands between history and hope for the future”.
Chief Executive Officer of the CHASE Fund, W. Billy Heaven, said that the new school should be delivered by Christmas.
He informed that the Marlie Hill Basic School is a Jamaica 50 legacy project and is one of nine infant schools to be constructed at a cost of $235 million. The others are in the parishes of Clarendon, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, St. Mary and St. Thomas.
Mr. Heaven recommended that a database be established to keep track of the first set of students to enter the doors of the school when it opens.
“Do that for the next 50 years and invite them back when Jamaica is having its centenary celebrations. At that time, you will see the doctors, you will see the lawyers, you will see the nurses, you will see the teachers and all the other professionals, and who knows, you could see another Prime Minster as well coming out of this very community,” he said.
The Marlie Hill Basic School was established in the 1950s and is located in Bellefield District. At its present location, the school is being threatened by land slippage on one side and there is no possibility for expansion on the existing property, hence the decision to relocate it to the grounds of the primary school.
By Andrea Braham, JIS Reporter