A helping hand for Fullerswood and neighbouring communities
Dave Johnson (right) with daughter-in-law Angeny Johnson duringa presentation ceremony at Fullerswood Primary and Infant Schoolearlier in November.

SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth — For decades students and teachers of the Fullerswood Primary and Infant School, about 30 minutes drive south-west of here, had to contend with stray cattle and other animals invading the open corridors of the main school building.

“They (animals) would come in and make a total mess,” Tisha Patrick-Rowe, acting principal of the school, told the Jamaica Observer.

Hence, the relief and gratitude of all concerned when United States-based Dave Johnson, a past student of Fullerswood Primary, made a “cash donation” which paid for a project to enclose the school property back in April.

“Now with the building properly enclosed, the janitor has a lot less stress since we returned to limited face-to-face classes,” said Patrick-Rowe.

COVID-19 led to the closure of physical school for most of the time since it took hold in Jamaica in March 2020.

Since then, most schools have been relying on online classes to reach their students. There was a return to limited face-to-face classes for some schools including Fullerswood Primary and Infant recently, following a reduction in COVID-19 cases. The hope is that come January all Jamaican schools will be open to students and teachers, even if only on a limited basis.

Patrick-Rowe told the Observer that the infrastructural assistance project at Fullerswood Primary and Infant in April also involved refurbishing work on the school's office and staff room – including the replacement of windows and doors.

Assistance from Johnson did not end there. In early November, he and members of his family, who were in Jamaica on a short visit, handed over hundreds of bag packs with hardcover exercise books, pencils, pens, and other learning material to children in Fullerswood and neighbouring communities including Pondside, Arlington, Mountainside, Vineyard, and Slipe.

Patrick-Rowe said those benefiting were not only students of Fullerswood Primary and Infant but also schools in the neighbouring communities.

Additionally, Fullerswood Primary received seven laptops, 10 tablets and three cases of printing paper to assist teachers. Patrick-Rowe said Johnson's gift of school material, latops, and tablets in early November had a total value of more than US$10,000.

Johnson, in a brief address to an audience of mostly students, parents and teachers at the presentation function, reportedly said he was born and grown just “a few chains” from the school. He credited Fullerswood Primary with helping to prepare him for adult life. Hence, his decision to give back as best as he could to the school, he said.

In 2020, Johnson and his family reportedly distributed care packages. The Black River Hospital also received financial support from the family this year.

Going forward, Patrick-Rowe said Fullerswood Primary and Infant school needs additional assistance not only from Johnson “who has already done a lot” but from the Government and other stakeholders to fix the roof of the main building which “leaks badly when it rains”.

She is also hoping to complete perimeter fencing for the five-acre school compound which would finally protect it from stray animals.

“We have already done one side and we have three other sides to do, we need all the help we can get,” she said.

Fullerswood Primary and Infant School, which was built in 1968, has 113 students, eight teachers, and other staff including a guidance counsellor, caregiver, cook, and janitor.

Tisha Patrick-Rowe, actingprincipal of Fullerswood Primaryand Infant School.

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