Oasis in a desert - Riverton Meadows eyes early-childhood certification
Back in January 1976 when Riverton Meadows Early Childhood Education Centre first opened its doors, it was a poorly built wooden structure, and in the words of founding principal Junior Rowe, "students were just sitting on the floor".
"I saw the need and said, 'No, it can't be like this.' So over the years, we approached different persons to assist us, and in 1986, Monsignor Richard Albert came on board, and through his later-established St Patrick's Foundation in 1994, things turned for the better," Rowe explained.
Fast-forward to today and the structure, located at 12 Ferguson Drive in Riverton Meadows, Kingston 11, is nearly fully concrete, and each child has a chair. While Rowe is thankful, he is not satisfied.
For the long-serving headmaster, that satisfaction will only come once the institution achieves full certification from the Early Childhood Commission (ECC).
"It would be my crowning achievement," Rowe said on Friday during the institution's annual Children's Day celebration, breakfast feeding programme and cheque presentation.
Though registered with the ECC, the certification process requires early-childhood institutions (ECIs) to fulfil the criteria set under the ECC's standards, which relate to health and safety (public health and fire safety reports, and police records); and educational quality, including teacher-qualification certificates.
Schools must also undergo an extensive inspection to be fully certified.
"Currently, we're about 90 per cent there. We need to get the place (grounds) surfaced to minimise the dust nuisance and also to ensure that if the children fall, they don't hurt themselves. We also need to put in some age-appropriate play equipment, so we're hoping that by September, everything will be ready," Riverton Meadows Early Childhood Education Centre principal Junior Rowe reasoned, noting that the CHASE Fund had granted them $3.2 million to action the project.
"This centre is an oasis in a desert. Residents come here for all kinds of things. We have youth programme here. We have a gym; a library; a homework centre; a youth centre, where we do SBA, GSAT and GNAT, and even grades three and four literacy preparation for students who attend the primary school outside of the community, who don't have any Internet access," said Rowe.
"I reside in this community. It's my drive, it's my passion, and I need for us to achieve this certification."