Sheena Gayle, Gleaner Writer
TWO SCHOOLS in Negril, Westmoreland, the Bunch of Stars Elementary School and Little Bay Infant and All-Age, have received a combined total of $40 million in funding from the Rockhouse Foundation ahead of the start of the new school year.
The fund forms a part of a commitment by the Negril-based Rockhouse Hotel, which established the foundation several years ago, to assist early-childhood institutions in and around that resort town.
The Bunch of Stars Elementary School, which is located in Old Hope, received J$10 million to upgrade the school building, construct a garden and to establish a playing field; while Little Bay Infant and All-Age School underwent a J$30-million refurbishing exercise.
Peter Rose, president of the Rockhouse Foundation, said this latest effort is a part of their commitment to improving the educational facilities in and around the Negril community.
"We are building a cluster of schools in and around the Negril area, including the ones we have already worked with," said Rose, while visiting the Bunch of Stars Elementary School and Little Bay Infant and All-Age on Wednesday.
"We are going to hire a coordinator to provide extra curriculum development assistance, leadership training and teacher training, for quality control over what's going on in the schools and general support for the teaching staff," added Rose.
Since its inception of the foundation in 2003, it has fully renovated and expanded Negril All-Age School, the Negril Basic School and the Negril Public Library. The group has invested more than US$1 million in these projects and associated support programmes.
For Shelly-Ann Reid, the director of the Bunch of Stars School, the assistance could not have come at a better time, as the early-childhood facility has been grappling with serious infrastructure challenges.
"The students, teachers and the entire community will benefit from this development," said Reid. "We now have a kitchen, a canteen, director's office, staff bathrooms; and enlarged classroom space.
"These are things that are important to the educational and social development of our children," continued Reid. "Our enrolment before this exercise was 35 students and now we can accommodate 60 students. We are grateful, words are not enough to express our happiness."
According to Reid, the school is now seeking to switch its focus from its all-age component to focus on early childhood.
"This is an area suffering insufficient funding," said Reid. "Children are going into primary completely ill-prepared and so the foundation has decided to focus on the early-childhood institution for the next several years,".