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Remembering St Elizabeth stalwart 'Danny Buck'

By GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-Large South/Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, February 16, 2014    

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SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — A table in one corner was covered with glittering trophies of various sizes ... evidence of the success that Brompton Primary School has enjoyed in sports competitions down the years.

Yet, as headmaster Neville Burke told his audience, which included education minister Ronnie Thwaites, the school has no play field. It is forced to use a small, rough and grassless backyard, bounded by a gully as the children's play area.

On occasions, for organised competitions in football, cricket, netball and athletics, the children are escorted by teachers -- sometimes on foot — to the Brompton Community Centre a half-mile away.

Excellence in the face of such great odds was pivotal in the decision made by the Donald Buchanan Foundation to make the Brompton Primary School's sports programme the beneficiary of its latest award, amounting to $200,000.

"The Foundation, has recognised and wishes to reward the tremendous effort of teachers, students and parents," said Dorothy Buchanan, director of the Foundation and widow of the late Donald Buchanan, popularly called 'Danny Buck', after whom it is named.

Donald Buchanan, a career trade unionist, Cabinet minister and, member of Parliament for South West St Elizabeth between 1989 and 2007, died in January 2011 following an intense battle with cancer of the colon.

The Foundation which includes Buchanan family members - not least Hugh Buchanan current Member of Parliament and son of Donald - and friends was making its third sports-related donation since its formation in mid-2011.

As recounted by Dorothy Buchanan at the presentation function, the first award by the Foundation in 2011 involved the donation of a large collection of cricket books from her late husband's library to the St Elizabeth Parish Library. Buchanan, a cricketer as a young man who at one time led a St Elizabeth team, had a life-long passion for that game as well as for horse racing.

The second award from the Foundation came in November, 2012 when a young cricketer, Kevaun Garwood of Fullerswood Primary, received a scholarship worth $100,000.

The latest award brought an added boost, since Thwaites made pledges for his ministry to assist Brompton Primary which is bursting at the seams. The school accommodates 476 children in facilities which ideally should house only 300.

Thwaites promised that in quick time, moveable classroom partitions would be presented to the school. Currently, some classrooms are separated by chalkboards only.

The education minister also pledged his ministry's help with upgrading of bathrooms. And while budgetary constraints meant it couldn't be done immediately, Thwaites envisaged that "not this budget year but next budget year" his ministry would "try" to assist with additional classrooms.

In the latter respect, he said, Government would welcome "partnerships" with the private sector and community.

"I like partnerships. If you have rice and I can bring peas, then we can make a good meal," he said.

The minister later told the Jamaica Observer that he would be exploring the possibility of assigning a mathematics specialist to Brompton Primary "to help teachers upgrade themselves and offer better opportunities to students."

"We have 120 maths specialists being commissioned all over Jamaica, because that's a real weak spot and the modern world demands competence in math," said Thwaites.

Earlier, Thwaites hailed the work of the late Donald Buchanan as a politician who had made service to others his life work. Buchanan's life was testimony to the good that politicians do, said Thwaites.

"Being a politician is a necessary and good profession in any democracy and we must stop giving politicians bad name for whatever they do," said Thwaites. "There are many people who think 'oh you are a politician therefore something must be dirty about you'. It's not true, and it wasn't true with 'Danny Buck'. This is an honourable profession of public service," the minister said.

He urged teachers, parents, church leaders and community leaders to do their part in helping children to achieve their potential to become not just academically successful but "wholesome, well-rounded individuals".

William Buchanan, brother of Donald, as well as MP Hugh Buchanan told the students of the Brompton Primary to follow the example of Donald Buchanan by working hard to achieve their goals.

The children were told that the late Cabinet Minister had determined from as early as 10 years old that he would become a politician and never wavered from his goal.

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