Nagra Plunkett, Assignment Coordinator
The Rhodes Hall High School in Hanover is moving to expand its agricultural programme following a donation of $3.3 million that will boost its contribution to the canteen.
The donation of cash along with livestock and plant crops is to be included in the school's plan to boost its self-sufficiency come September, thanks to an ambitious initiative by Member of Parliament for Western Hanover Ian Hayles.
"No need for me to tell you that the importation of foreign goods in this country has surpassed US$900 million and we have to cut that level of importation," said Hayles, who is also the state minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
"We have to start eating whatever we produce in this country. Your school is unique, it's a new school, and whatever we give you here today is to ensure that you know how it was produced."
The six-year-old institution - one of 17 built under the northwestern schools programme - was presented with some 600 chickens, plant crops of lettuce, cabbage, callaloo and four goats - worth $300,000 - to kickstart the school's goat-rearing project.
Less than a week ago, Hayles handed over $2.5 million towards Rhodes Hall High's agricultural programme and a further $500,000 towards the construction of a greenhouse.
"I have also made the commitment that for every year that you have the agricultural programme here, I will donate half a million dollars from my constituency development fund in ensuring that you keep the programme here and it's a success."
First batch did not sit
Ernile Campbell, agricultural teacher at the school, said the programme was started in 2008 but its first batch of students did not sit the subject in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations until last year. A total of 14 students wrote the exams and eight of them received pass marks.
The agricultural students also have the opportunity to get certification under the National Council Technical Vocational Education Training (NCTVET) initiative.
The school currently grows sweet pepper, hot pepper, pak choi and cabbage, and the greenhouse will be used to plant tomatoes and ornamental plants.
"The crops that we grow are sold to the canteen. We just produced one batch of chicken and all the meat goes to the canteen. Whatever the canteen cannot hold in the refrigerator is sold to teachers at a cost below market price but it is at a level where we make a profit," Campbell explained.
"The receipt of these gifts will enhance the development of agriculture in the school and help students with looking at agriculture as a business and career rather than as a demeaning job," added Campbell