Performance in many of the island’s basic schools, especially those in remote rural communities, has been hampered by resource constraints. Schools were housed in sub-standard buildings and operated without vital resource materials and learning tools.
Some J$1.4 billion of the CHASE Fund’s contribution to the education sector has been channelled into infrastructure development and the provision of furniture, equipment and teaching aides; and this has enabled the schools, many of which faced the threat of closure, to meet the standards of the Early Childhood Commission. Above all, the investment has given children in under-served communities the opportunity to access quality Early Childhood education.
Clifton Basic School – Serving the Wider Community
Even before construction was completed for the new Clifton Basic School, in Hanover, parents from Lucea – some five miles away – were seeking admission for their children, to what is a well-equipped institution.
After operating for some 50 years in cramped and deteriorating quarters at the rear of the Assemblies of Holiness Church, and several futile requests for assistance from private sector companies, the school community received news in 2007 that the CHASE Fund had approved the application for construction of a new school, submitted by the Citizens’ Association. The facility boasts two classrooms, an administrative block, kitchen, storeroom, sanitary conveniences and an outdoor play area. It is a boon for this remote farming community and surrounding districts – including Mt. Peace, Dundee Pen, Chambers Pen and Askenish – whose residents also have access to the premises for meetings and special events.
A Story to Tell at Slipe Basic
“We are very grateful to CHASE. Our children are learning in a more comfortable environment, they are enjoying a hot meal every day and they do not have to interrupt their play when it rains because the indoor play area has ample space.”
– Teslin Dennis, Principal, Slipe Basic School
The children and Principal at the Slipe Basic School, located in an agricultural and fishing community near Lacovia, St. Elizabeth, speak happily about the newly refurbished building into which they moved in January, 2010.
The facility, which was completed in a record six months, replaced a dilapidated, one-room building that had served the school for 20 years and which no longer met the growing needs of the 50 students on roll. The Principal, Miss Teslin Dennis, recalls that some children had to sit on the floor, as there were not enough desks and chairs; ventilation was poor; the doorway had to be cleared of animal droppings and disinfected every morning and there was no electricity or modern sanitary conveniences.
The expanded building has a new roof and ceiling and it features two large classrooms with child-appropriate furniture and white boards; bathrooms with running water; a Principal’s Office and a fully-equipped kitchen. There are also indoor and outdoor play areas, complete with toys.
New “Dream” School Built for St. Agnes Basic
Brightly painted in yellow and royal blue, with three spacious, fully-furnished classrooms; a staff room; sick bay and other amenities for a modern school, the new St. Agnes Basic School in Buff Bay, Portland is a stark contrast to the refurbished fowl coop and the one-room, wooden building that served as classrooms for many years.
Principal, Miss Colleen Clarke, explains that the make-shift facilities had a negative psychological impact on students, who were ridiculed by children in the community. The lack of proper facilities also resulted in a significant decline in enrolment, although St. Agnes Basic won the School of the Year Award presented by the Parish Board of Education on two occasions.
Completed at a cost of J$26 million, the new school was dedicated in December, 2010.
“Our new school is a dream come true and a gift from CHASE. Now that the learning environment has improved, our enrolment is also increasing and we no longer need to worry about the safety of our children because the premises is now fenced.” – Colleen Clarke, Principal, St. Agnes Basic School
Building Programme Benefits Friendship Infant School
In January, 2012, the Friendship Basic School, in Strawberry District, Westmoreland, began a new chapter in its history when the CHASE Fund completed construction of its new school building, which was also fully furnished and equipped. And, consistent with the long-term development strategy of the Ministry of Education, the school has since been adopted by the Ministry of Education and designated an infant school.
“I am giving God thanks. Everything is under one roof. I no longer have to put up and pull down my charts every day. There is more than enough seating for the children and the learning environment is very good.”
– Viris Pennicooke, Principal, Friendship Basic School
For almost 12 years prior to this, the institution shared facilities with the Friendship Apostolic Church in an environment that was unsuitable for teaching and learning and fell short of the Early Childhood Commission’s standards. In response to urgent appeals from the community, CHASE identified Government land nearby for the new building which was handed over fully-furnished and equipped.
Caenwood Resource Centre – Upgrading for Improved Service Delivery
The Caenwood Resource Centre and Day Care Centre is one of 11 facilities across the island whose physical plant has been expanded and upgraded with financing from the CHASE Fund, in order to strengthen their support programmes for practitioners in the field and parents.
A hub for early childhood care and development programmes, teacher training and capacity building initiatives for parents and caregivers, the multi-disciplinary Centre in Kingston, serves some 128 schools, some from as far away as Port Royal and Bull Bay, in the eastern end of the city. It also caters to children and parents from the neighbouring community of Allman Town, as well as employees of the Ministry of Education. And, its programmes have included skills training in the areas of garment construction, computer technology and floral arrangement, through which several parents have gained employment.
The renovated complex at Caenwood now accommodates training and meeting rooms; offices; a library; kitchen and support areas, as well as a specially designed playground, which the Centre Manager says offer a more appropriate teaching, care and learning environment.
Emergency Relief: J$100 Million for Basic School Rehabilitation
A J$100 million allocation from the CHASE Fund for emergency relief rekindled hope for teachers and students of167 basic schools that were most severely damaged by the devastating Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and Hurricane Dean in 2007. The schools, which lost mainly roofs, were in the parishes of Portland, Clarendon, St. Catherine, Manchester and St. Elizabeth; and they were identified for assistance based on assessments undertaken by technical officers from CHASE.
The timely injection of J$50 million by the Agency ensured the speedy rehabilitation of 144 schools and prevented dislocation in the early childhood education sector following the passage of Hurricane Ivan – at the time, the sixth most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. Three years later, a further J$50 million in grant funding from CHASE helped some 23 institutions destroyed by the Category 4 Hurricane Dean, to keep their doors open.
In both instances, the repairs were undertaken in consultation with the Ministry of Education and the Early Childhood Commission. CHASE also upgraded the infrastructure and replaced equipment and appliances at several of the badly affected schools whose facilities were below the standard required by the Early Childhood Commission. And new buildings were constructed at the Claremont Gardens and Ginger Ridge Basic Schools.
Basics Initiative – Building Academic Success in Inner-City Schools
A marked improvement in the academic performance of the more than 2,100 children from 28 basic schools in the inner-city communities of South St. Andrew is being reported, following an intervention spearheaded by the non-governmental organisation, Vision Development Foundation and financed by the CHASE Fund. CHASE’s support is supplemented by contributions from private sector donors, as well as from Member of Parliament, Dr. the Hon. Omar Davies; and this has facilitated extension of the project to four years, ending in August 2014.
“The support which the CHASE Fund has provided for the BASICS Initiative has facilitated immediate improvements to the quality of early childhood education in all the communities of South St Andrew. However, perhaps more important, that support has allowed us to lay the basis for this improvement to be sustained over the medium to long term”.
– Dr. The Hon. Omar Davies, Member of Parliament, South St. Andrew
Undertaken against the background of the continued low literacy levels among primary school students, especially those at inner-city institutions, the pilot project which began in August 2010, sought to equip participants with the critical skills for literacy development. It also had the objective of raising the pedagogical skills of teachers at the various institutions through the adoption of best practices.
The multi-faceted project involved a cluster of basic schools in the Jones Town, Admiral Town, Rose Town, Trench Town and Maxfield Avenue communities and stakeholders including parents, the Ministry of Education and the Early Childhood Commission.
School plants were upgraded, diagnostic tests were conducted to identify children with special needs and teachers were trained to recognise the initial symptoms for follow-up by professionals. Six clusters were formed and one model school in each cluster has been equipped with modern technologies and advanced learning tools, with access being provided to all participating institutions. Over 90 teachers were exposed to improved methodologies which they have shared with colleagues in the target schools and more than 1,200 parents have participated in weekly workshops highlighting their role in their children’s development.