Rennock Lodge All-Age School | constantly rising above challenges
The learning experience begins long before one even enters a classroom at the Rennock Lodge All-Age School in east Kingston, where walls are transformed into chalkboards depicting the water cycle, multiplication tables, geometric shapes, and labelled diagrams of the eyes, ears and mouth.
Portraits of Jamaica's national heroes and heroine adorn a perimeter wall, along with the national symbols offering some visual insight into the country's history and heritage.
"The mascots and symbols are specially chosen, using things which they can relate to and identify with," said Jacqueline Lewis, principal of the Rennock Lodge All-Age School.
On the opposite side of the school there is the peace wall, where the Courtesy Lion, I Cat, and Bugs Bunny offer helpful hints for coping with conflicts the paintings all part of a much wider and novel strategy for stimulating young minds.
Whenever there is a fight, the principal shared, students are taken to the peace park in the company of a teacher who guides them through the different methods for resolving their disputes.
The emphasis is on getting them to realise that in disagreement, no one has to get hurt, and they can work things out at the end of the day everyone is a winner.
Lewis explained that the peace wall is a much-need initiative to help the children develop conflict resolution skills, something that is deemed absolutely necessary in a community where turf war sometimes translates to violence and often escalates to murder.
The school is bordered by the communities of Norman Gardens, Springfield, Rockfort, and D'Aguilar Town, but Lewis insists that it is "nicely nestled at the foot of the Wareika Hills".
Lewis's passion for the job and commitment to ensuring that children get a solid educational start is rooted in her lifelong association with the Rennock Lodge All-Age School, where she first set foot in 1966.
After 21 years, she has been on the other side of the desk, she has been teaching since, and for the last two years, she has been heading institution.
Lewis says that she is determined to give back to the school and wider community by empowering others.
While there have been setbacks, the school continues to make strides, with support from neighbours Jamaica Flour Mills and Jamaica Private Power Company, among others. This, along with the solid backing of the residents of the area allows the school with a population of 75 students and 11 teachers to punch well above its weight.
"The community protects the school," Lewis said.
Her hope is that peace of mind will prevail and will be carried over into classrooms, as well as homes, and ultimately, the children will become agents of change.
This is especially important for children who are exposed to violence on a fairly regular basis, with the school located in an innercity where gang violence is a fact of life.
Like an oasis in the desert, the school is an abode that makes a difference and provides the most powerful tool of them all for the children: that of education.