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Bob Marley school determined to succeed

BY KARYL WALKER Editor - Crime/Court Desk walkerk@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, May 18, 2014    

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ALTHOUGH faced with numerous challenges, principal of the Bob Marley Primary and Junior High School, Roxanne Williams, is determined to make a positive difference in the lives of the students whom she is mandated to ensure become upstanding members of society.

The institution is based in the district of Stepney and was renamed in honour of Reggae King Bob Marley, who attended the school when he resided in nearby Nine Miles as a child.

As a junior high school the institution is populated by students who did not manage to achieve satisfactory scores in the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GSAT) so the 11 teachers have a mammoth task of bringing the slow-learning students up to scratch.

But this has not dampened Williams's spirit and she is hell-bent on making the best of what she has to work with.

"It is a challenging environment. This is what I inherited, but we as administrators will have to come up with ingenious ways and use unconventional teaching methods to impart knowledge to the students," she said.

Chief among her woes are the lack of computers in an age where knowledge of technology is needed to move forward.

"We have only one computer that is in the administration department. These children don't know how to use computers and that is not good. We need to get these children on par with their peers across the island or sadly, they will be left behind in the race of life," she said.

The school has for years been getting assistance from the Bob Marley Foundation, which has built a classroom block and provides a $10,000 monthly stipend to offset the cost of the school's breakfast programme.

A representative of the Foundation told the Jamaica Observer that a move was afoot to acquire some computers for the school.

"We are working on getting the school some computers. That institution means a lot to the foundation and we've been very supportive of it even when it was the Stepney Primary and Junior High and even more so now that it bears the name of the Honourable Robert Nesta Marley," the representative said.

But Williams is raring to go and is not prepared to sit and wait on handouts.

"I have bought some paint out of my own pocket and painted a badly defaced section of a wall with my own hands. We are grateful for whatever help we receive, but we have to start moving forward," Williams said.

She has also acquired bathroom tiles and community members provided labour to repair and beautify a drinking fountain for the students.

Her biggest concern is that the children have to use pit latrines.

The structure contains about six latrines and is woefully outdated.

"No child should come to school and be subjected to using a pit latrine. That is unacceptable and will have to be remedied soon," she said.

The school has a population of 174, drawn from the surrounding communities of Nine Miles, Eight Miles, Stepney and Higgins Land.

Children on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) are afforded a $30 daily stipend for lunch and those who are not on PATH get $70 daily, Williams told the Sunday Observer.

However, although 174 students are officially registered in the school, Williams said that the average attendance rate was 92 primary level students and 34 junior high school students.

But while some of her charges at the secondary level may be academically challenged, Williams and her staff have been employing other methods of teaching and have employed extra-curricular activities, such as chicken farming, to supplement any learning disability.

When the Sunday Observer visited, several chickens had just been slaughtered under the supervision of agriculture teacher Horace Greaves.

Greaves seemed excited as he instructed male and female students about the basics of chicken husbandry.

"We have plans to get some layers so we can start producing eggs," he said.

His students looked eager and seemed to be enjoying themselves as they frolicked inside the enclosure which can hold up to 350 chickens.

Williams said that she was in the process of acquiring containers to undertake a container-farming project as the rocky terrain on which the school is situated renders traditional farming near to impossible.

"We already have the seeds," she said.

She said that bauxite company Noranda had been approached to assist in setting up greenhouses.

There are also plans to start up a bee- farming project.

But while the students at the secondary level may be behind in their education, there is hope for the students at the primary level.

"We have a volunteer coach for Spelling Bee who has identified some students from grades four and five who have the talent," she said.

The institution was renamed in February this year.

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