One hundred and sixty children between the ages of 3-6 from Negril and neighbouring communities now have a brand new school thanks to an innovative public-private partnership between the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information (MOE) and major donors, the Sandals Foundation and The Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund.
Built in less than a year, the West End Infant School was officially opened on December 6, 2017, at a ceremony attended by Minister of Education, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, Sandals’ Chief Executive Officer, Adam Stewart, CHASE Funds’ Chief Executive Officer, Billy Heaven as well as numerous leaders of the Negril community, teachers, parents and friends of the project.
Those who were in attendance sang praises for the initiative as the new West End school is not only the first of its kind in the community but is also a necessary infrastructure.
“Let me, first of all, express sincerest appreciation to the Sandals Foundation and CHASE Fund for providing this well-needed Infant school for the West End Community,” Reid expressed.
“The Ministry is on a drive to provide tangible and direct support at the early childhood level. Within the next three years, the Government intends to gradually convert basic schools that are struggling to Infant schools and infant departments. This is to ensure that full support is provided for these children from very early in their development. This includes nutrition, access to trained teachers and resources to support these schools,” he continued.
The school was built at a cost of J$111,070,506.00. It comprises eight classrooms with adjacent resource rooms and bathrooms; a spacious kitchen and eating/recreation indoor area, a staffroom, sick bay and principal’s office as well as a large garden and modern playground. The playground and all of the furniture and educational resources were donated by School Specialty, a major United States-based supplier of school equipment and longtime partner of the Sandals Foundation.
“Sandals Foundation is all about investing in Jamaican and Caribbean communities and so we were happy to work with the Ministry to address the need for a new school in this region,” shared Adam Stewart who is also president of the board of the Sandals Foundation
“We want to thank our partners CHASE and School Specialty for their generous support as we dedicate this beautiful school to the children of Negril,” he added.
CHASE Fund’s, Billy Heaven, also expressed his enthusiasm about partnering with Sandals Foundation on this crucial project and highlighted the importance of investing in early childhood education.
“The CHASE Fund has focused its attention on early childhood education, guided by the knowledge that investing in this area will eventually yield high economic and social returns to the country.”
The building of West End Infant School is a MOE-endorsed project which addresses the issue of upgrades to infrastructure, adequate space and the safety of children in classrooms, as well as, the need for improved pedagogical skills among the region’s teachers. The school will provide the opportunity for children ages 3-6 in and around that community to access quality early childhood education in a supportive learning environment.
Sandals Foundation’s Executive Director Heidi Clarke, in her address, reiterated the Foundation’s commitment to supporting educational projects.
“Like CHASE, the Sandals Foundation recognizes the importance of investing in early childhood education. We know that between the ages of 3-6 young children are developing socially, intellectually, emotionally and physically, making this one of the most critical stages where the best care and the right learning environment will set the stage for future success.”
This donation by the Sandals Foundation is part of the Foundation’s longstanding focus on improving education in Jamaica and across the Caribbean islands in which Sandals operates through school upgrades, teacher training, enrichment programmes, book and school supply distribution as well as secondary and tertiary scholarship opportunities. To date, over 300 schools and 129,000 students in the region have been impacted by initiatives supported by the Sandals Foundation.