Constance Curriah, principal of Waterford High School in Portmore, St Catherine is appealing to the public for assistance in funding the institution's feeding programme, and obtaining a bus to transport students to and from sporting and other extra-curricular events.
According to Curriah, 280 of her students are on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) while another 100 are signed up with the schools welfare programme. Those on PATH are supposed to get subsidised lunch three days per week. However, Curriah and her administration put a system in place that allowed the roughly 400 students to receive lunch five days per week. But since February the school has had to cut the number of days from five to three, and that reality worries Curriah.
"We are really short of money so we have an issue in terms of feeding the students. The Government does provide PATH but it is only $150 per day for three days, and that is really not enough. I am really appealing to Jamaica in general for any assistance in terms of providing funds or foodstuff to feed the children. The 100 welfare students are not on PATH but I have always been feeding them five days per week, but it has been costing us.
"The challenge now is that with the financial issues we are having, we cannot continue to feed them for five days and so we cut it down to three. Some parents can't find the money, so even though PATH only covers three days, there is an additional two days. Even though some of the students are on PATH, some parents would give still give them money. What we ask them to do is use the little extra to ensure they come to school on Thursdays and Fridays," Curriah said.
"I would like to return to the five days because it means that there may be students absent on Thursday and Friday because they don't have lunch. For some students, the PATH lunch is the only meal they get for the day. Some of our students live in deplorable conditions and/or they have no caring parent or guardian. When I feed them for five days, I know they get something substantial. When I have to cut the days down to three, it bothers me," she added.
As it relates to the school's need for a bus, Curriah said that transporting the students to sporting and other events "can be expensive".
"My head of science advised me that there is a science fair at the University of Technology and transportation is basically anywhere between $25,000 to $30,000. Everytime the students have to go anywhere, we have a serious issue in terms of money. Going into Kingston every time for track meets and then when Champs starts, it costs us $20,000 to $25,000 per day. If you're going to Spanish Town it is $15,000, and if you're going into Kingston it is $25,000. For extra-curricular, our school-based assessment trip goes on the coast, so if we are going to Portland or St Thomas you know that is going to cost us about $45,000. We wouldn't need to be finding that money if we had a school bus; all we would need to find is gas. We really need the assistance."