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Food For the Poor launches Jamaica 50 campaign today

PROComm | 2012-06-14 12:10:00

Food For The Poor created history today by initiating the most far-reaching infant school building programme in the island, by launching its Jamaica 50 Campaign, which will build and or upgrade 50 early childhood institutions within 50 months, in commemoration of Jamaica’s Golden Jubilee. The launch and groundbreaking ceremony took place at High House District in St. Catherine, which will be the site of one of the new infant schools.

Andrew Mahfood, Chairman, Food For The Poor (FFP) explained that the FFPJamaica 50 Campaign will upgrade schools that have been deemed as unfit spaces for children to learn, and will also construct new schools. “The first three schools in the project will be officially opened in September this year. After this, at least one school will be opened each month, for the remainder of the 50 months,” the FFP Chairman disclosed. Mr. Mahfood disclosed that so far, 29 schools, which need to be constructed and or upgraded, have been identified in the parishes of Clarendon, Portland, St. Ann, Kingston, St. Catherine, St. Thomas, Manchester, St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland and St. James.
Each institution will accommodate between 40 and 100 children. The infrastructural features of each school are as follows: an office, sick bay, kitchen, sanitation area, and one large classroom that can be subdivided into three learning spaces. “The Basic Schools will be built in communities where the Early Childhood Commission, in consultation with Food For The Poor, has identified the most dire needs for pre-primary facilities.”

The FFP Chairman also announced that a component of the Jamaica 50 Campaign is the training of 500 teachers over a period of 5 years. FFP has forged a partnership with HEART/NTA on the implementation of this project. “Starting this September, FFP will be providing scholarships to Basic School teachers who need to upgrade their qualifications, but lack the financial resources to do so,” explained Mr.Mahfood. “ We will disburse 50 teachers’ scholarships every September and January for the next five years.” HEART Trust /NTA is to conduct the training.

Rev. the Hon. Ronnie Thwaites, Minister of Education, and Keynote Speaker welcomed and endorsed the Jamaica 50 Campaign as a tremendous effort and “extraordinary gift to Jamaica” in helping to advance early childhood education. He said the schools would provide the children with the right preparatory learning for achievement at higher levels of the academic system. “And so the Food For The Poor dedication to early childhood education during this 50th anniversary of Jamaica’s independence is a big thing and we are lured into this important consciousness of future behaviour by our friends at Food for the Poor,” declared the Education Minister.

He said the 50 schools being built by FFP will receive future government assistance in the training of its staff and educational support to the students: “These 50 schools will be characterized as Infant Schools and therefore will receive the full support of the government of Jamaica.”

The Education Minister has urged Jamaican communities to treat the education of children with priority attention. Pointing out that tending to the children of the nation is the biggest responsibility, which Jamaica has, the Minister appealed to Jamaicans to view the sector as “an investment industry”. He pledged that the government will be encouraging significant investment in early childhood education by the private sector. “No longer will early childhood be the ‘Cinderella’ of the education system. It must take pride of place. It must come first, not last,” emphasized Minister Thwaites. He also implored churches to start and or expand early childhood institutions.

The Education Minister encouraged the parents and communities, which will benefit from the new/upgraded FFP schools to treasure and care for the facilities and provide a nurturing environment for the children.

His comments had resonance with Professor Maureen Samms-Vaughan, Chairman, Early Childhood Commission (ECC), who also addressed the launch event. Professor Samms-Vaughan reminded the parents and community that they would have to play their part in ensuring a quality-learning environment. “If we place them in a violent environment they will become violent. If we place them in a loving environment, they will become loving…if we provide them with high quality learning environment, they will reach their highest potential,” the ECC Chairman outlined.

The ECC Chairman commended Food For The Poor for the Jamaica 50 Campaign, which she believes will have a positive ripple effect on the nation’s children and teachers. She expressed confidence that the programme will ensure that scores of Jamaican children, have a quality start in life. “We want to commend Food For the Poor for the scholarships being given to teachers. The training of teachers is the single most important factor impacting the development of children, ” commented Professor Samms- Vaughan.

She also recognized FFP for the ongoing role it has played in partnerships with the ECC over the years, in repairing and replacing several early childhood institutions damaged by hurricanes. Professor Samms-Vaughan pledged continued collaboration between the ECC and FFP.

At today’s function, Rosalyn Gayle, Principal, High House Basic expressed appreciation on behalf of the school community for the new facilities, which will be provided by FFP. The students of High House Basic School entertained the audience.

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 thirty years ago, FFP has made a significant contribution to Jamaica’s education through the payment of school fees of needy students, distribution of school furniture and supplies, the construction of 41 basic schools since 2004, and the upgrading of sanitation facilities at schools.

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