MANDEVILLE — Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and Member of Parliament for South West St. Elizabeth, Dr. Christopher Tufton, has called on residents of Hounslow and Bigwoods to protect their new basic school, constructed at a cost of over $24 million by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
“This asset belongs to you in the community and you must protect it, because it is your children and your children’s children who are going to benefit from it,” he told residents attending the official handing over of the school to the communities by JSIF, on Wednesday June 1.
He noted that the school is providing infrastructure of a quality and standard that is now becoming the norm in early childhood institutions.
“The mandate of the Government is to ensure that not only do we have good secondary schools, or primary schools, in terms of infrastructure and the quality of the teaching, but we also improve and upgrade the standards and the quality of institutions for the very young,” Dr. Tufton said.
The school is equipped with 12 computers donated by a resident of the area, Oral Gordon, plus four others donated by JSIF.
Noting that it started over 100 years ago in a small board building, which was badly damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004, he said that words could not express the communities’ gratitude to those who contributed, in cash or kind, to its reconstruction.
“JSIF and the Canadian International Development Agency have changed the lives of our children, by giving them a chance to experience a new environment, with the space more conducive to learning,” said Principal of the school, Angella Graham.
Chairman of the school board, Donavon Williams, said that Early Childhood development was very important to the community and its children.
“It is the time we place the greatest emphasis on their exposure to education, and it is at this stage that we should seek to lay the base (for their development),” he said.
Mayor of Black River, Councillor Jeremy Palmer, praised the school board’s chairman and the community, for their commitment to finding the funding for the project.
“The leadership that he has provided, in bringing it together, has been outstanding, and represents a true indication of community commitment. It doesn’t matter what you do in a community, if the community itself doesn’t show some commitment to what is being done, it won’t be sustainable,” the Mayor said.
“Education is and has to be for families, a priority, because that is a gift that you can give to your children; the gift of proper education. The children must get the best teaching at the best facilities, so that they can learn early to read and write,” Mr. Palmer added.
Other features of the institution are bathroom facilities for teachers and students, a play area, water storage tanks, a sewer and drainage system and driveway and parameter fencing.
Acting Chairman of JSIF, Patricia Sutherland, said the project succeeded because of the hard work and sacrifice of the community. She said it was important to them to keep it in the best possible condition.
By GARFIELD L. ANGUS, JIS Reporter