Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Museum, highway operators partner to uplift schools

Published:Friday | February 10, 2017 | 2:00 AMKeisha Hill
Desmond Levy (left) of Jamaican Infrastructure Operator Limited and Guillaume Allain (right), managing director of TransJamaican Highway, pose with a member of the Independence City Primary School 4-H Club.

The Natural History Museum of Jamaica (NHMJ), a division of the Institute of Jamaica, and the operators of Highway 2000 East-West have partnered with the Independence City Primary School in St Catherine to re-establish a vegetable garden.

The project includes the planting of sweet peppers, hot peppers, onions, pumpkins, bananas, corns, beetroots and carrots to support the school's meal programme. It will also teach students about biodiversity and practical solutions for environmental issues.

The NHMJ and the operators of Highway 2000 East-West recently handed over the vegetable garden to the Independence City Primary School. The school also received tools to be used in maintenance of the garden as well as a copy of the resource booklet Vegetable Gardens, A Tool for Biodiversity Education in Jamaican Schools developed by the Education Department of the NHMJ.

"We are always happy to support noble initiatives such as this one, especially where the enthusiasm of students and staff is evident. Although we have our own financial limitations, we feel it is our responsibility as the developer of Highway 2000 East-West to assist in communities surrounding the highway's corridor, and we are particularly keen on assisting in the area of education," said Guillaume Allain, managing director, TransJamaican Highway Limited.

SPREADING THE MESSAGE

"Being so closely involved with the NHMJ in the development of this vegetable garden was in keeping with these goals, and now that we have officially handed over the garden to the students, we are confident that they will continue to maintain the garden so that they can enjoy the fruits of their labour in more ways than one," Allain added.

The chief objective of the project is to increase the awareness of biodiversity and issues related to the environment among the students in the Environment Club of the school. This is done primarily through activities conducted in the Biodiversity Centre, established on the school compound, by personnel from the NHMJ along with other resource persons whose expertise cover animal and plant diversity, biodiversity conservation and environmental education.

"This collaboration with the operators of Highway 2000 is greatly appreciated, as it has allowed the NHMJ to expand its reach in new communities and spread the message of the importance of our natural resources and the significant value of Jamaican biodiversity. Students under the programme are also learning how to contribute to the protection of our plants and animals and their ecosystems," said Tracy Commock, director of the Natural History Museum of Jamaica.

In 2015, a decision was taken to expand the project to other schools in the vicinity of the highway. These schools are Independence City Primary in St Catherine, Freetown Primary School, Rosewell Primary School and Moore's Primary School in Clarendon. It was determined that vegetable gardens would be created at these schools and would serve not only as a tool for biodiversity education and an avenue for revenue generation, but as a source of fresh meals for the students.

keisha.hill@gleanerjm.com