News for December 2012

In Brief

Belize

The container arrived in Belize on Friday November 23rd and contents emptied and stored at Landy’s hardware. When Justin Kendall and Mel Honig arrive on December 9th for mission 6, they will break everything out for each community. The remainder of the team will all arrive by Saturday December 15, when we will start training.

Donations/Purchases

Ottawa Hills High School Rummage Sale Games and Toys
Auction Sale at Eastwood Schools Chairs and Tables
Monetary Donations Michael Allen & Wilbur Wade Portrt Clinton Rotarians

Jamaica

Project Manager, Mel Honig conducted a fact finding/project directed trip to Jamaica in November, 2012. The objectives of the trip were to:
1. Ask a Rotary Club in Jamaica to adopt a basic education project as their own;
2. Assess education needs and determine if Resource Centers International could provide the expertise and educational equipment and supplies to help meet those needs;
3. Meet with the Ministry of Education and engage their support of the project that was proposed;
4. Finalize a project proposal that would be supported by MESA and Rotary International District 6600, the Rotary Clubs of Jamaica and the Ministry of Education.

 

The Jamaica Mission

RCI Project Manager, Mel Honig recently completed a fact finding trip to determine if Jamaica is the next country that for RCI expansion. Emails were sent to all the Presidents of the Rotary Clubs of Jamaica, and the President of the Rotary Club of Savanna-La-Mar, Dionne Meyler immediately responded. During the weeklong visit Mel presented the work RCI is doing in Belize to the Rotary Clubs of Savanna-La-Mar, Lucea and Negril. Meetings were also held with the Ministry of Education, the principals of nine Primary and Infant schools, the Director of the Open School University of the West Indies and Director of Early Childhood Development, Ministry of Education, District 4.

Although we have three years experience in Belize, there was no set agenda as to what direction the project would take as we expand to other countries. After a few days experience it became obvious that the Belize model would not work in Jamaica for many reasons. The primary one was an almost total lack of community owned buildings in rural communities. Although communities in general do have an active Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) there are no village councils, or water boards, with most decisions made at the federal level.

There is a great need in Jamaica for the resources we can bring. The Rotary Club Savanna-La-Mar appointed Hilda Hibbert as their project coordinator. Ms. Hibbert and I, after a meeting with Jennifer Francis the Early Childhood Education Officer at the Ministry of Education, put together a Project Proposal to be cosigned by the Rotary Club of Savanna-La-Mar, Rotary International District 6600 Governor Robert Vincent and Clement Radcliffe, the Chief Education Officer, Ministry of Education. When the Project Proposal is finalized we will publish the details.

Education in Jamaica: There is universal free education in Jamaica from age three through high school graduation. Infant school is for three to five year olds. Upon leaving Infant school there is an evaluation test at the beginning of Primary One to determine any weak areas in the child’s education that need to be worked on. At Primary 4 each child is given a proficiency test before moving onto Primary 5. If a child does not pass the proficiency test he/she is given 3 more opportunities before the child has to go to a special school. Upon graduation from primary the young adult then gets a choice of high schools. To enter certain schools you must take a competitive exam. I visited one of these schools which is also a boarding school; isolated in the mountains with no distractions… even cell phones are not allowed. Parents must pay room and board, but tuition is 100% funded by the government. Standards are high at these schools and pupils are expected to achieve.

Almost all teachers have a college degree and are encouraged to get advanced degrees. The federal government pays for salaries, electricity and internet and provides a stipend for each child. Parent Teachers Associations and schools work together to make sure no child goes hungry or uneducated. For the poor the government gives families some money to help pay for the expenses involved in a child going to school. These expenses include a uniform and taxi/bus fare to get to school. Despite all these efforts funding often falls short of needs and schools find it difficult to keep up with technological advances and population growth.

All schools I visited were open classroom. Buildings were as large as required with dividers or partitions between them. In some schools teachers were teaching two classes simultaneously; 4 year olds on one side of the blackboard with 5 year olds on the other and the teacher working with one group at a time. Only one school I went to had a playground. There were no soccer fields and little in the way of organized outside play areas. Although schools had libraries, books were lacking and generally outdated. There were some computers in the schools, but those were all for the older (primary) children. Space was very much a problem in the schools as was noise. Speaking in a soft voice was not an option.

During my week stay there I was hosted royally by the Rotary Clubs of Western Jamaica. All the people I met were tolerant, patient and caring. Jamaicans respect each other and their environment. The streets were clean and homes in good repair. This could not be said of the well travelled roads where driving was a challenge. Although potholes and narrow roads were the norm, the roads were clean and relatively safe. Drivers were appropriately cautious and polite under these difficult driving conditions.

At this time we here in District 6600 are actively collecting educational equipment and supplies for Jamaica, but we must have the Project Proposal approved by all parties before we can proceed. ‘Ya mon’, we are on our way.

-Mel Honig, Newsletter Editor

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