The Government has signed an agreement that will see $250 million being pumped into the infrastructural development of 23 high school and community-based sporting facilities across the island.
The High School Sports Infrastructure Improvement Pro-gramme is being facilitated through the collaboration of the Office of the Prime Minister, the Ministries of Education, Agriculture and Local Government. The project will see schools in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, Portland, St James, St Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Clarendon, St Thomas and Trelawny benefiting over the next two years from improvement to their sporting facilities.
The programme will be funded by the Sports Development Foundation (SDF) which will provide $100 million, and the European Union (EU) Sugar Transformation Programme, that will provide another $150 million. It is also being undertaken with the full support of the Inter-Secondary Schools Association (ISSA), and the Social Development Commission.
Minister with Responsibility for Sport in the Office of the Prime Minister, Natalie Neita-Headley, signed the official agreement at a launching and commitment ceremony last Friday at the Vere Technical High School in Clarendon.
She noted that under the first phase of the project, the Ministry of Agriculture will be facilitating the development of sporting facilities in 13 schools which fall in areas under the EU Sugar Transformation Programme.
Minister Neita-Headley said the global acclaim that Jamaica is currently receiving for its athletic prowess, is just recognition for the hard work of its athletes. She noted however, that it was a process that started within the school and community infrastructure.
"It started at the grass roots, in community leagues kicking football with juice boxes, on the street corners in communities without playgrounds, at schools with dirt tracks and in competitions organised by ISSA, JISA (Jamaica Independent Schools Association) and INSPORT (Institute of Sports)," she emphasised.
The minister pointed out that in many cases there is a need to improve these facilities. She further noted that some high schools lack even the basic infrastructure on which to develop their interest in physical education and sports.
The minister also disclosed that a recommendation was made for the SDF to implement a shift in the execution of its mandate in relation to the development of community sport facilities. This is to allow greater emphasis on the improvement of sporting infrastructure in high schools. She, however, implored principals and administrators to facilitate access to their sporting facilities by surrounding communities. This, she said, must be done in a structured way to minimise the wearing of the facilities.