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A labour of love - Rock Hall Basic School - Symbol of hope and old-fashioned grit

Published:Thursday | February 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Amitabh Sharma, Features Coordinator

Left: To the world! Boys of Rock Hall Basic School pose, Usain Bolt-style. Right: Staff of Rock Hall Basic School (from left) Joy Carr-Roulston, principal; Dawn Mahabeer, Suzette Waugh, Jean Robinson, Kevin Brown and Seymour Rennalls (stooping). - Photos by Amitabh Sharma

Meandering through Red Hills, St Andrew, the drive to Rock Hall Basic School encompasses a panoramic view of the Corporate Area and the Caribbean Sea. The school sits atop a hillside, an epitome of perseverance and dedication.

Rock Hall Basic, founded in 1976 by Junior Chamber International (JCI), has withstood the test of time, thanks to the sustained effort of JCI, coupled with the hard work of principal Joy Carr-Roulston.

"The Rock Hall Basic School has been a project that has really touched me as an individual," said Craig Harley, Junior Chamber International (St Andrew) president.

"JCI is my backbone," said Carr- Roulston, who has been at the helm of the institution since its inception. "They help us in whatever way they can."

She attributed the sustainability of the school to her staff, who go the extra mile to ensure operations run smoothly.

"We have six teachers, including me, who manage six classes," she informed The Gleaner.

They double up as servers, look after security and take turns in cleaning the toilets.

"We cannot afford a helper, so we have to do it ourselves," the principal said.

The going has not been smooth, Carr-Roulston said, sitting in a room that is her office, storage area and library.

"The going has been rough, rough," she remarked, pointing to a portion of roof that is broken and in need of repair.

"The economic crisis is on us."

Rock Hall Basic School, which has 134 children on roll, charges a yearly fee of $3,000 and $80 per day for a cooked meal, but there are times when parents cannot pay.

"The parents of most of the children either work as domestic helper or labourer. At times they cannot afford the fee," she said. "But still we give lunch to the children; we don't want them to go hungry."

Despite the difficulties, Carr-Roulston is holding on to hope.

"We get through in times of trouble, sometimes I don't even know where it (help) is coming from."

JCI is looking at options to maintain funding.

"Currently financing this project is a major challenge that is faced in sustaining the project," Harley said.

"In order to get over this hurdle, we, as an organisation, will be doing our very best to get corporate Jamaica involved in funding the development of this project."


JCI is an international youth leadership development organisation that empowers individuals ages 18-40 to become active citizens within their communities.

Another JCI St Andrew initiative is The Best Care Children's Home. "This institution caters to wards with mental and physical disabilities," Harley told The Gleaner.

For Carr-Roulston and her staff, this is a labour of love, which they find in the smiles of the children in the school.

"For us, it is a joy to have been part of their lives," she said. "Many times, former students will come to me and thank me; it gives me a lot of pleasure."

Carr-Roulston is not giving up on her belief that the school will soon have a computer laboratory and a library.

"It is my dream," she said, "and I hope it comes true soon."

The JCI president is hopeful that his organisation will soon widen the scale of its activities in the community.

"The organisation will reach farther and wider in assisting with the development of communities, better individuals and eventually a better world, but we can only make a difference one step at a time," Harley said.