Portia hails Fidel Castro campus

Facility finally being used for its intended purpose, says PM

BY HORACE HINES Staff reporter hinesh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, September 13, 2015

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MONTPELIER, St James -- Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller says the newly opened Montpelier campus of the Anchovy High School, named in honour of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, is correcting the mistake of not using the facility, which was given to Jamaica by the Cuban Government over 35 years ago, for its intended purpose.


"Today (Friday), I have the single honour to right that historical wrong and to participate in the opening of this educational institution as the Mountpelier campus of the Anchovy High School," Simpson Miller noted.


"It is a travesty of history that after 1980 our Cuban friends were not allowed to complete the construction, which was then at an advanced stage, and that the facility was never used for its intended purpose of educating our children."


Simpson Miller, who argued that the history of modern Jamaica can never be "truly chronicled" without mentioning the great friendship with its neighbouring Spanish-speaking neighbours, also reflected that "in the late 1970s, Jamaica received a gift of three major educational institutions that were meant to be monuments to the lasting bonds of friendship and cooperation between our peoples".


The three schools include: Garvey Maceo High School in Clarendon, José Martí High School in St Catherine, and GC Foster College of Physical Education. The fourth facility, which was constructed in Mountpelier, will only be used for its original design, come tomorrow, when a cohort of over 800 grade seven and eight Anchovy High School students will be housed there.


Meanwhile, also speaking at the opening ceremony of the Fidel Castro Campus of the Anchovy High School, which coincided with the opening of the 2015/ 2016 school year, Member of Parliament for St James Southern Derrick Kellier thanked Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites for making certain that the facility is used to accommodate students as planned.


He recollected that after the Jamaica Labour Party took over the reigns of the Government in 1980, at different junctures, the structure was used to house members of the Jamaica Defence Force and Haitian refugees, respectively.


"This compound was occupied by soldiers as a direct policy of the then Administration to put soldiers to occupy on this compound where we are today. That continued for some time, not withstanding the protestations and the voices that were raised against such a backward move at the time. Subsequently, it became the home of refugees from our Caricom country, Haiti. And for a time the soldiers returned," Kellier recounted.


He added: "I want to extend to my colleague, Ronnie Thwaites, thanks and appreciation for the bold move of coming with me on this journey to return the school to the students and teachers of Jamaica."


Meanwhile, noting that the grave error should never be repeated, the education minister argued that "education is bigger than party politics.


"No other country has contributed so much to the educational infrastructure of Jamaica than the Cuban Government and people," Thwaites expressed.


Meanwhile, Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica, Bernardo Guanche Hernandez, exuded confidence that Castro's name will motivate the St James school population.


"I am sure that the name of Fidel Castro will be a sort of inspiration for the students and teachers of this school to become better human beings," Hernandez commented.


"It is a great honour to witness this historical event. The naming of Fidel Castro of this facility built in the late 1970s is among a number of educational institutions donated to Jamaica by the Cuban Government."


In the meantime, the opening of the Fidel Castro Campus of the Anchovy High School signals the end of the shift system at the school, which is warmly welcomed by Principal Lambert Robinson.


"I am a happy man. Transformation has begun, the space that we so desire is here, and we are taking it a step at a time, because at this campus now we have the seven and eight graders, which will now give us greater opportunities to set a culture of success and excellence, both in terms of behaviour and performance," Robinson told the Jamaica Observer.


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