Knockalva Agricultural School principal optimistic about proposed support

BY JAVENE SKYERS Observer staff reporter skyersj@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 06, 2017

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Principal of Knockalva Agricultural School in Hanover Davia Ramgeet-Robinson says she is encouraged by discussions with Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Agriculture, JC Hutchinson about transforming the school, after he visited the institution recently.

In a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer, the principal outlined several initiatives expected to be undertaken based on her discussions with the minister during the tour of the school’s grounds.


The boarding school, which is located in Ramble, has been on a path of transformation since last September when Ramgeet-Robinson took over the reins of the institution.


Last month, the Jamaica Observer published two stories in which the principal said some of the key areas that are in need of improvement are that of the facilities of the school as well as its curriculum.


Ramgeet-Robinson also highlighted praedial larceny and the struggle to properly secure the 216 acres of land on which the school sits as some of the challenges facing the school.


During the tour of the institution, the principal said Hutchinson spoke about the school’s potential to become a hub for the school garden and breakfast programmes.


At the same time, she told this newspaper that Hutchinson said that the ministry is looking to collaborate with the Jamaica Dairy Development Board to revamp the agricultural programme at Knockalva, to give the school the ability to provide milk and eggs to primary schools in western Jamaica. This would include the re-establishment of the milking plant, to include inputs such as pastures, stock and upgraded facilities.


Ramgeet-Robinson also said that she has already contacted Seprod Limited and is looking to continue the communication as revamping the school’s dairy plant is one of the initiatives in the institution’s strategic plan.


The principal said during the minister’s visit, he was given a tour of the grounds and the need for proper fencing was impressed upon him. She said they also discussed using the school as a model for farming best practices.


"In our substantive posts, certainly, everyone comes with different strengths and weaknesses. However, the best partnerships work because the vision, values as well as passion and enthusiasm are shared and that’s how I feel about the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries and the Knockalva Agricultural School," she said.


In the meantime, Ramgeet-Robinson also shared that Agriculture Minister Karl Samuda is expected to visit the school later this month.


"Hopefully this will be to hash out a working agreement of who is going to do what and when. I would like us to build a plan of action to address whatever opportunity we’re intending to pursue together and, of course, the Ministry of Education cannot be separated in any policy direction that we seek," she explained.


As the transformation process continues, the principal said an effort is being made to boost enrolment. She said the institution is trying to request assistance from the National Housing Trust to fix the school’s dormitories.


"I’m uncertain if this is possible, however, Knockalva has a genuine need as some of the dorms are currently closed as they are uninhabitable. We need to get them to a satisfactory level to accommodate Jamaica’s youth in agriculture," she stated.


Ramgeet-Robinson added that the school will be able to accommodate 300 students once the necessary work is done.


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