Food For The Poor (FFP) today officially opened the Kings Infant School, formerly known as the Long Hill Basic School, in Long Hill, Westmoreland. It is the first early childhood institution to be built for the parish of Westmoreland and the county of Cornwall under the FFP Jamaica 50 Campaign, which seeks to build and or upgrade 50 early childhood institutions within 50 months.
This Food For The Poor Programme is celebrating Jamaica’s 50th year of independence, by expanding access to high quality pre-primary facilities for the nation’s youth. The Kings Infant School will serve the communities of Long Hill, Whitehouse, Red Gate and Petersville. It boasts three classrooms, a sickbay, an office for the teachers, a kitchen, and bathrooms.
Delivering remarks at the Opening Ceremony, Samantha Mahfood, Executive Director, Food For The Poor Canada, announced that among the other communities in Westmoreland which will benefit from the FFP Jamaica 50 Campaign are: Culloden, Content, Argyle Mountain, Orange Hill, Carmel, Reid’s Mountain and Paul Island. All parishes in the county of Cornwall will be receiving early childhood facilities, under the Campaign. “Some other areas in Cornwall which will benefit from new early childhood schools are Esher and Rejoin in Hanover, Pepper and Bethsalem in St. Elizabeth, as well as Point and Sunderland in St. James,” Ms. Mahfood disclosed.
Over the years, the Long Hill Basic School was housed in several temporary facilities in the community. For the past 4 years, it was housed in cramped conditions in a section of the Grade 1 classroom at Kings Primary School. Subsequently, the St. Thomas King’s Anglican Church Diocese of Jamaica donated the land for the construction of the school by FFP. This latest development has also led to the renaming of the school, and FFP will also be making advanced training available to the teachers at that institution, in keeping with standards set by the Early Childhood Commission (ECC).
Ms. Mahfood expressed appreciation to the Anglican Church and the ‘Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation’ for their donations, which made the school a reality. “Helping Hands
Jamaica Foundation, the Canadian-Jamaican donors, financed the construction and furnishing of the school. We commend our local and international donors of the FFP Jamaica 50 Campaign. Without our donor’s financial support we cannot change a child’s future,” explained the FFP Canada Executive Director, adding, “Today I ask each of you to get involved by donating to the construction of a school.” She urged citizens to create a solid foundation of love, care and discipline in the lives of Jamaica’s children. “Be committed to opening the ‘doors’ and ‘windows’ of learning with academic studies, and vocational training,” advised Ms. Mahfood. “Let us give them a sound ‘infrastructure’ of skills and the encouragement they need to be successful.”
Dita Scott Myers, Principal, Kings Infant School, expressed appreciation to FFP for the construction of the new facility. “We are all overjoyed for this new school. This institution will go a long way in helping the community’s children to learn in comfort, and with the spacious classrooms we can now accommodate more children.” The school has a population of 31 students but it has the capacity to accommodate 60.
Keynote speaker Shannon Hendricks, Legal/Policy Officer, Office of the Children’s Advocate, encouraged communities to “guarantee our children child-friendly, child-centred institutions which encourage them to learn in a creative environment”. She implored teachers to be faithful and diligent in their duties, despite the socio-economic difficulties facing them.
Describing the establishment of Kings Infant School as a “life-altering initiative which creates the perfect preparatory environment”, she stressed that the teachers should aspire to be great, as great teachers inspire students to achieve their best. Children need good parenting as well as excellent teaching to attain their best potential, she added.
Dr. Mark Nicely, President Elect, Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), shared similar sentiments, while addressing today’s event. He cautioned that the problems being experienced at the secondary and tertiary levels started at the early childhood stage of the children’s lives. Pointing out that it is “easier to build a strong child, than to repair a broken man,” Mr. Nicely stressed the importance of significant investments in education, if Jamaica is to realize its 2030 vision. He commended the educational initiatives of Food For The Poor which saw them partnering with communities, and appealed for other civic groups to forge similar partnerships in education.
The FFP Jamaica 50 Campaign is a part of the ongoing support by the charity to address the socio-economic challenges in Jamaica. Since its inception 30 years ago, FFP has made a significant contribution to Jamaica’s education through the payment of school fees to needy students, distribution of school furniture and supplies, and the construction of basic schools. In 2011, the charity distributed J$1.8 million worth of furniture and supplies islandwide. Earlier this year, FFP outfitted 18 educational institutions with well-needed school furniture. These schools were recommended by the Ministry of Education and included: Mico University College, York Castle High, Green Park Primary, Manchester High and Kingston College.