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Students and staff at St. Patrick’s Primary School on Bay Farm Road are now enjoying expanded classroom space and a new multi-purpose court.

The $31. 27 million upgrading project was funded by the European Union (EU), through its Poverty Reduction Programme being implemented by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).

The scope of works included: construction of six classrooms to Ministry of Education standards and equipping of the facilities; installation of metal railings to corridors and stairs; re-paving of the school yard; and construction of a multi-purpose court.

Speaking at the official handing over ceremony at the institution’s premises on Wednesday (Oct. 17), Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, said investment in education is money well spent, as education provides for upward social mobility.

“Many persons, who achieve success in business, academia, politics, sports and other areas of endeavour, came from very humble beginnings but somehow, somewhere invested in their education. St. Patrick’s Primary School has, I am sure, produced top flight academics, doctors, lawyers, scientists, engineers and business people. One day we may be looking at a Prime Minister or a Governor-General, who will proudly say ‘this is my alma mater’,” he said.

Minister Hylton, who is also Member of Parliament for St. Andrew West, where the school is located, said the expansion should be seen as a necessity and not a luxury.

In his remarks, Charge d’Affaires of the EU, Jesus Orus Baguena, said the project is more than the upgrading infrastructure, noting that it is geared towards developing unity and social cohesion among residents.

“Although educational infrastructure is critical to any community, one of our greatest hopes, when we embark on these projects, is to see social development and cohesiveness among the residents. You will now not only benefit from a new school, but also from increased experience in managing your community, which is to me, an output as valuable as building these classrooms,” he stated.

Managing Director, JSIF, Scarlette Gillings, in a message read by JSIF Board Member, Sarah Newland-Martin, said the work undertaken underscores the high importance that the Government and the EU place on education.

Principal at the school, Susan White, in expressing gratitude to JSIF and the EU, said that the new classrooms, which will house six graders, will alleviate overcrowding.

St. Patrick’s Primary has a student population of 900, with 39 staff members. Before the construction of the classrooms, students were housed in the auditorium, which provided a less than ideal learning environment. The multipurpose court will enhance the active sports programme at the school, which is known for winning athletic championships and competitions.

Counterpart funding of $10.73 million or 25.5 per cent of total cost was provided by the school community in the form of land for civil works; provision of storage and security for material and equipment; provision of water and  electricity; facilitating all functions including maintenance training; organising and providing refreshments and venues; providing discounted labour; and  site clearance and landscaping.