OBSERVER: A Japanese Government grant for new classrooms will soon make life more comfortable for students of Fair Prospect Primary School who will no longer have to contend with termite-infested facilities and puddles that create obstacle courses whenever it rains.
Also, space problems at Black River High School will be eased as the St Elizabeth school has also received a grant from the Japanese Government to build additional classrooms to address overcrowding at the 48-year-old institution.
A $31-million grant agreement was signed yesterday by new Japan Ambassador to Jamaica Hiromasa Yamazaki, Minister of Education, Youth and Information Ruel Reid, state minister Floyd Green, and principals of both schools at the ministry's head office at the National Heroes' Circle in Kingston.
Fair Prospect Primary School, located in Portland, will receive $11 million to build new classrooms, while Black River High has been allocated $20 million for the same purpose.
“… Because of the population we had to use ply board to facilitate two classrooms to address the overcrowding situation. However, the area is termite-invested and as a result of that we have to be changing the ply board annually or every two years. It was costly to the school,” Fair Prospect Primary School Principal Julie Bailey-Walters told the Jamaica Observer following the signing ceremony.
Bailey-Walters said the education ministry became aware after a conversation with one of their officers who had visited the Portland institution. Shortly after, a Japanese volunteer who was placed at Region 2 visited the school, according to Bailey-Walters, who informed her about the Grant Assistance for Grassroots and Human Security Project.
“Based on what he saw, the school was eligible to get a grant from the Japanese Government to assist in the building of two classrooms, and he assisted us in completing the required documents. A profile of the school was done and we submitted that to the Japanese Embassy in Jamaica, and from that they returned to the school. They did an assessment with NET [National Education Trust] and we got word to say that the project was approved,” said the overjoyed principal. The monies, she said, will go a far way in improving teaching and learning at the facility that caters to 212 students.
For Black River High School Chairman Vincent Guthrie, the money will facilitate the construction of four classrooms — which is a part of the larger initiative being spearheaded by the education ministry to remove the shift system at the school.
The school was initially designed to facilitate 600 students, however, the student population is 1,704.
According to Minister Reid, the Government was urged to increase the education budget by 70 per cent in 2004 after a task force report revealed that 50 per cent of schools islandwide were in major disrepair.
“…In fact, both parties (People's National Party and Jamaica Labour Party) had reflected and said listen, we hadn't done enough for education and there was a thrust in the '70s in terms of providing greater access of primary education. We struggled with not only maintaining school facilities [at the] primary level but were largely constrained at the secondary [level],” Reid said.
The minister, noted that the partnership with the Japanese Government is in keeping with the ministry's initiative to develop facilities for students to fully develop their potential.