Making a difference for our least-resourced schools
Denham Town High School Principal Donovan Hunter and a student of the institution. (Photo: Observer file)

The State never has enough resources to cover the needs of everyone. That's why privately sourced donations and assistance are usually enthusiastically embraced.

In the education system, for example, alumni-linked assistance makes a huge, positive difference for individual schools.

However, it also underlines the in-built, ingrained inequalities in Jamaican education.

In the public domain there is frequent reference to traditional or 'good schools' the implication being most unflattering for many others.

Jamaicans know that the most prized schools, are often though not always those with a long history, some well in excess of 150 years. Invariably, such schools can boast of outstanding achievements.

In the case of one of Jamaica's truly great high schools, the all-boys' Kingston College (KC), its history dates back less than 100 years to 1925. Back then, we are told, KC was "envisioned as a remedy for the social deformity in which poor, black boys were allowed primary education only".

Such has been its success, KC is today an elite institution among those chosen for top achievers in the annual secondary school entrance exam.

Contrastingly, many schools without a strong reputation or material base receive low-achieving students from the primary level some semi-literate at best.

Success begets success. In KC's case there are influential, well-resourced alumni making exceptional material contributions to their alma mater.

Chairman of the Kingston College Class of 1980 Planning Committee Wayne Jones (left) presents KCOBA President Richard Lindsay with the first instalment of a financial donation totalling $1 million for the association's social intervention programmes at the school.

In the latest examples, we read on Monday of donations made through the KC Class of 1980 for a scholarship worth $150,000 per year; and $1 million towards social intervention programmes over five years.

From Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland comes news of a game-changing donation from past student Mr Victor Lowe. His gift has led to the opening of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) laboratory at his alma mater, the 285-year-old Manning's School.

School Chairman Mr Moses Chybar says Mr Lowe "single-handedly contributed well over $50 million to the (STEM) project". Other support included a $1-million donation from Jamaica National Bank.

The recently opened Victor Lowe STEM Centre at the Manning's School in Westmoreland. (Photo: Kimberly Peddie)

The recent experiences of Manning's School and Kingston College are in sharp contrast to others such as 44-year-old Waterford High which is pleading for assistance to provide lunches for approximately 400 children from very poor homes, as well as a bus to fulfil sporting and other engagements.

Regarding food, that most basic of necessities, Waterford's Principal Ms Constance Curriah says, while the Government provides school lunch three days weekly for those from the most impoverished homes under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, much more is needed.

For some children, she said, that lunch is the only substantial meal for the day. On days when there is no lunch, some children will stay away. Hence Waterford High's desire to provide lunches every school day for its poorest children.

Such stories are not isolated. Only on Sunday we highlighted the case of Denham Town High which seeks support from the public to allow meals for children learning to read.

As Principal Mr Donovan Hunter observed, "Students can't learn on empty stomach…"

That reality means pleas for help from the public by school leaders should be heeded.

Inequalities will remain in Jamaica's education system for a long time yet, but a strong, helping hand for our more disadvantaged schools can make a world of difference.

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