CHATEAU, Clarendon - The Chandler's Pen Primary and Junior High School here is relishing the opportunity to spearhead the parish's first biodiversity public awareness campaign.
Located on the outskirts of central Clarendon, Chandler's Pen was recently presented with a biodiversity centre by TransJamaican Highway Limited and Jamaican Infrastructure Operator Limited (JIO). They are collaborating with the Natural History Museum of Jamaica "to help communities gain awareness about the country's biodiversity".
The centre, which is outfitted with diverse species of flora and fauna, will be supervised by the museum for an initial five-year period after which a committee, including the school's environmental club, will take full control.
"It is not quite at the level of the Institute of Jamaica, but it will fill that void and we expect that there will be continued support," said Collin Murray, JIO's financial and administrative manager.
"Our long-term goal is really sustainable development," he added. "We want to see the natural components along the motor corridors remain."
The centre is said to be the first of its kind in Jamaica and "is expected to provide individuals with an exclusive educational opportunity (through) direct interaction with the local environment, while aiming to expand the creative sensibilities through a focus on biodiversity and the benefits of a sustainable environment."
"We are indeed elated and looking forward to the project," Principal Gregory King said. "We have a management team in place, along with the environment club, which will ensure that the centre is preserved. We already have areas that are designated for agricultural use — tree planting and so forth — so, what we will be doing now is planning other activities to complement what we have here."
King added that the centre will be opened not only to children and adults from the immediate community, but also to the general public.
"It has always been a part of our mandate to ensure that we become a part of any organisation that is seeking to improve our education, so other schools and adults, not just from the community, are invited to come in and share in what we have," he said.
Mayor of May Pen Scean Barnswell, who attended the opening ceremony, hailed the initiative as an important step towards achieving sustainable development.
"I challenge every Clarendonian, including myself, to better understand this cause," he said.