IT'S been more than 40 years since Junior Rowe has been at the helm of the Riverton Meadows Early Childhood Centre (ECC), an institution described by many as a pillar in the community.
For the people of this area, the ECC is more than just a school, serving also as a nursery where parents can leave their young charges safely while they go to work, for job interviews or training.
"Riverton is a unique place. Most families here come from economically depressed backgrounds. Still, they want to improve their children's lives through education; this is what inspires our work at the Riverton Meadows Early Childhood Centre," said Rowe, adding that despite its key contributions, the beloved institution remained uncertified due to a lack of basic funding.
As part of its overall support for back-to-school initiatives within the school community in and around the Spanish Town Road area, the Desnoes and Geddes (D&G) Foundation stepped in to assist, adding sweat equity to a donation of appliances and other items.
The team from the D&G Foundation received a warm welcome from staff and students when they arrived to carry out much-needed repairs to the school's nursery and donate items critical to the school's accreditation process. The donated items include sanitisers and masks, a refrigerator, baby changing stations, and wall fans to increase ventilation.
"There is no questioning the importance of the work Mr Rowe and his staff are doing in the community. You rarely see this level of student engagement, especially at schools in underserved communities. Our admiration for what they have accomplished compelled us to assist Riverton Meadows in achieving accreditation. There is already a good foundation to support student learning and development; all they needed was some support to take them to the next level," said D&G Foundation accountant Dennis Beckford who led the work team.
Just one visit to the institution is all it takes to realise that the management and staff of the Riverton Meadows ECC have fully dedicated themselves to excellence. Classes proceed in an orderly manner, and students are fully engaged in lessons. The school compound is spotless, health and safety protocols are fully observed, and the bright-eyed students treat everyone they encounter with respect. In addition to strong academic support, the school also boasts an impressive infirmary, covered spaces for physical education, a facility where uniforms can be created, and a fully established class monitor system to encourage youth leadership and responsibility. It is, therefore, not surprising that several teachers are themselves past students who have returned to help build the community.
Further explaining the importance of the school to the community, Rowe noted, "People are always shocked when I tell them that since this school started over forty years ago, we have never had one incidence of theft or trouble from the community. That is because everyone living here benefits from its success. When a community embraces its institutions, they protect it and contribute to its success, and this is what we have here."
Riverton Meadows ECC's efforts toward accreditation could not have come at a better time. With students back in classes, Rowe noted that parents and teachers face the issue of making up for the learning loss from the last two years.
"Students have only been back to school for a couple of weeks, but it is already evident that we have our work cut out for us, and I know that is the case for schools across the country. We are using several assessment tools to gauge where our new and returning students are in their learning levels. The truth is, however, that for many returning students, they have lost so much in the two years that we will have to start from scratch to ensure that they have a solid foundation to build on," he explained.
Rowe noted, "We appreciate the assistance from the D&G Foundation to meet some of the milestones on the road to certification. We are currently making progress in several areas that need to be addressed to become a certified institution. This school is important to our community, and we must keep going."