Concerned church, community intervene to save basic school
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
When the operators of the Goldsmith Villa Basic School in August Town, St Andrew, suddenly packed up and left during the Easter term in 2011, there was concern that the institution would have to close its doors.
At that time, the school's principal, Lorna Robinson, had no idea of what would happen to the 35 children who attended the institution.
The teachers at the school and members of the ancillary staff also faced an uncertain future.
But now, more than two years later, the school is still operating despite some major challenges.
Robinson noted that as news of the possible closure of the school spread in the tough inner-city community, a haven of hope appeared for the students and staff.
"The Haven of Hope Baptist Church in August Town saved the school from being closed that semester (2011). If it wasn't for the church again the school would have been closed the academic year that just ended (2013)," said Robinson.
She told The Sunday Gleaner that in the last school year, extensive efforts were put into raising the academic status of her young charges.
"Compared to what we got at the beginning of the year, I am pleased with the levels they attained on graduation," said Robinson.
For the school year that begins in a matter of days, 27 students will be returning to school while four new students have so far been registered.
Board Chairman David Smith, who also heads the August Town Community Development Committee, told The Sunday Gleaner that he is involved in several community efforts including the Haven of Hope Baptist Church and that led to him being asked to chair the board.
CALLED TO SERVE
"When the school was closed, a number of persons came to me and asked me to become involved in keeping it open.
"Pastor Ezekiel Curtis of the Haven of Hope Church held discussions to see how the church could help and chart a way forward. Discussions also included Member of Parliament André Hylton," explained Smith.
He noted that the previous operators ran the school almost without charge to the students, but when the church took it on, a fee of $3,000 was implemented.
This was $500 less than the minimum fee set by the education ministry.
According to Smith, the school has been kept open by a number of community organisations and some external partners.
One of those external partners is the University of the West Indies Mona campus through its Quality Leadership Programme.
In the 2011-2012 school year, students who were part of the Quality Leadership Programme staged a number of fund-raising efforts and netted almost $250,000 which was used to repair the bathrooms at the school.