School sows seeds of self-reliance
Gareth Davis Sr, Gleaner Writer
Orange Bay, Portland:The school population at Orange Bay Primary in West Portland is a proud community as they showcase their agriculture skills in chicken rearing and backyard farming, which goes a long way in assisting their canteen.
Senior teacher, Mrs Avis Tulloch, explained that the rearing of chickens was made possible through a grant from the 4-H club of Jamaica, which donated approximately $400,000 to the school to assist with the construction and purchasing of chicks and feeds.
"It was a timely donation," commented Tulloch.
She added, "Three years ago, we received this grant, and we have been rearing chickens for more than a year now. At first, we were a bit tense, as we didn't know what to expect. As a result, we started out with 20 baby chicks, just to see whether or not thieves would have stolen any. But after getting all 20 to full maturity, we have since increased to a hundred. At present, we have 50 and these go a far way in assisting with meals at the canteen."
The approximately 100 students and six teachers all assist with the rearing of the chicks, along with the planting of a small vegetable garden and a nearby plantain root.
When Rural Xpress visited the school on Wednesday, Education Minister Ronald Thwaites, along with West Portland Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz, were making a courtesy call on the school to view its newly-completed canteen and dining area.
"I like what I am seeing here today," commented Thwaites.
He added, "Portland is well known for farming, especially West Portland, and teachers and students at this institution are keeping alive that tradition. This school is able to feed its population by investing in farming. It can only get better, and whatever assistance is needed, the ministry will be more than willing to assist with making this project more sustainable."
But while the school has come a long way in education and agriculture, Tulloch was quick to point out that one of the drawbacks at the school is ensuring the safety of students and safeguarding furniture and electrical equipment, which pose a serious challenge due to the lack of security.
She added, "We would very much welcome the construction of a perimeter fence, so as to keep out undesirables. As it is now, the school property is open to any and every passer-by and the area is heavily vegetated. Anyone can easily walk in and take what they desire with minimum fuss. We have been doing well at farming and, in June, amid the drought conditions, we managed to reap a large amount of tomatoes, and students were able to take home a large amount of that vegetable."