Children. Learn.

This week is Education Week in Jamaica. It means (obviously) that the Minister of Education is exceptionally busy, with a flurry of additional functions and school visits. We have also embarked on Child Month – when much wider issues affecting children are under the microscope. These “issues” are so wide-ranging that they cannot possibly be addressed during a few speeches/seminars during one month. We must keep them at the forefront of all our thoughts and discussions right through the year. In our hearts and minds.

Earlier today – Teachers’ Day – I spent some time at St. Michael’s Primary School, in the inner city area of Rae Town. The occasion was the donation of ten computers to the school by a U.S.-based company, GTECH Corporation (see press release below). The school is tucked away on a narrow lane, in one of the oldest parts of the city, close to the waterfront. There are remnants of old brick walls, broken kerbs and overgrown patches of land. This morning, rows of lilac-colored clouds furrowed the pale morning sky; the early light was soft and a faint humid breeze blew from the harbor. And just beyond the school loomed the red brick, Victorian walls of the “General Penitentiary” – or correctly named, the Tower Street Correctional Centre, spiked with barbed wire. The children must, one assumed, be used to these close quarters, this walled horizon.

The Chairman of the School Board, the Rev. Dr. Alton Tulloch, told me that the original St. Michael’s Anglican Church, where he ministers, was destroyed during the 1907 earthquake. It was close to or on the site of the current school, and was rebuilt further back from the shoreline, on Victoria Street. (The National Library of Jamaica has a wonderful photo album on Flickr, which includes a photo of the old church after the earthquake  – little more than a pile of rubble).

The school was busy getting itself in order when we arrived; a few curious students wandered up to the room where we were to peer at the beautifully decorated walls, swathed in blue and yellow. They were shushed away. There was excitement in the air, and the narrow schoolyard was filling up with strange cars. The visitors were arriving…

Monday was Read Across Jamaica Day. Ms. Deika Morrison of Crayons Count visited the Sunrays Educational Centre and read to the young children there. Pelican Publishers’ Latoya West-Blackwood visited the Central Branch Infant School and tweeted, “Don’t know how the teachers do it! So much energy in the room!”  The photographs below tell the story of enjoyment and fun. Crayons Count campaigns, and provides materials, in the area of early childhood education – those years when a child’s thoughts awaken. The brain absorbs; the eyes widen and imagination begins to flow.

Albert Einstein said, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”  I grew up on fairy tales, and I don’t think they did me any harm.

Books, learning and exploring are at the core of the children’s experience at the Trench Town Reading Centre, which will celebrate its twentieth anniversary later this year. Situated in the heart of Kingston 12, just opposite the “Government Yard” where Bob Marley spent his youth, the Centre is bursting with energy and life. It is also a book-centred place of learning. No tablets here, no fancy technology; but so much creativity – hands-on – craft, music, art, gardening, dance, performing arts, and books, books, books.

The Afghan writer Khaled Hosseini wrote: “Children aren’t coloring books. You don’t get to fill them with your favorite colors.”  Yes, they will fill in their own colors, but they are all beautiful.

And learning comes in many packages: whether it’s a tablet, a picture book or a computer such as those GTECH is providing to institutions in Jamaica.

So, wherever you are, and especially to my Jamaican readers… This month and throughout the year please do whatever you can to bring that shining light of discovery into a child’s eyes. The learning experience gives as much pleasure to the teacher and guide as it does to the young recipient. Try it, nuh! And please support organizations such as Trench Town Reading Centre and other places where the love of learning flourishes!

GTECH DONATES COMPUTERS TO ST. MICHAEL’S PRIMARY SCHOOL

Kingston, Jamaica, May 8, 2013 – Global information technology company GTECH today, Teachers’  Day, continued its commitment to fostering educational growth through their After School Advantage Programme with the handover of ten computers to St. Michael’s Primary School in Rae Town, Kingston.

This was their fifth such installation for Jamaican institutions, with two more planned by year-end. The Programme donates computers to non-profit organisations and schools with the aim of bridging the “digital divide” and empowering disadvantaged youth.

At the handover ceremony, Minister of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining Phillip Paulwell, who gave the main address, praised GTECH’s vision. He expressed his enthusiasm for and commitment to the use of information technology in schools, as a tool that will “create inquisitive minds” and encourage innovation and creativity. He recalled an early Jamaica Computer Society programme in rural schools that resulted in “almost immediate improvements” in reading.

“I thought: therein lies the answer,” Minister Paulwell observed. He expressed the belief that, once given access to information technology, Jamaicans could become technology leaders on the global stage.

 GTECH Jamaica’s General Manager Debbie Green stressed that the Programme is much more than simply donating computers. “It is about establishing a relationship with the institution,” she noted, that includes continued support and maintenance. As an example of this, St. Michael’s Primary will be GTECH Jamaica’s Labour Day project onMay 23 this year; their staff members will be engaged in painting and refurbishing activities at the school, which houses 235 students.

GTECH’s Regional General Manager/Caribbean, Ann-Dawn Young Sang, quoted Jamaican National Hero Marcus Garvey’s words, “Knowledge is power.” She noted that in this “era of rapid advancement, there should be access to the digital world for every child.” In pursuit of this vision, she noted that GTECH works in over seventy countries worldwide, with over 200 After School Centres established. Emphasizing the importance of early childhood education, Mrs Young Sang sees information technology as a vital component for the region’s competitiveness.

St. Michael’s dedicated Principal, Dave Allen, expressed his gratitude for the computers, which he said would empower his students to “become good citizens of the world.” Noting the presence of veteran educator Verna Duncan, he celebrated the significance of the day – Teachers’ Day – for his school “in our little corner” of the city. Mr. Allen and a lively percussion section accompanied a group of charming students, who performed traditional folk songs for the guests.

Technology Specialist with the USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project Dr. Melody Williams commended the GTECH family for its focus, pointing to several key benefits of information technology in schools. “If used effectively,” she suggested, “IT enhances the child’s creative skills.” Students must be “good digital citizens,” she added, pointing to the need for responsible use of the Internet.

Since 2006, GTECH Jamaica has provided assistance to a number of schools and institutions, including Lawrence Tavern and Easington Primary Schools, Sylvia Foote Basic School, the University of Technology, Caribbean Maritime Institute, Portmore Community College, Dunrobin Primary School, Holy Trinity High School, the Jamaica Christian Boys’ Home and the SOS Children’s Village. On average, the GTECH-funded programme invests US$15,000 to open and maintain each IT centre over a period of four years.

The GTECH After School Advantage Programme started in the Caribbean in 2005 in Trinidad and Tobago, where it has established twelve centres since 2011. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, GTECH has partnered with the Queen Louise Home for Children in St. Croix. It plans to open a second centre in St. Thomas this year, as well as one in the Dominican Republic

http://www.usaidjamaicabasiced.com USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project

http://jamaica-gleaner.com/pages/history/story0017.html Disaster: The Earthquake of 1907

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28320522@N08/ National Library of Jamaica Flickr Photostream

http://dogoodjamaica.org/crayonscount/2013/05/07/open-books-smiling-faces-read-across-jamaica-day-2013/ Open books and smiling faces: Read Across Jamaica Day 2013

http://www.trenchtownreadingcentre.com Trench Town Reading Centre

 

Let's hug teacher! The children at Sunrays Educational Centre show some love on Read Across Jamaica Day. (Photo: Crayons Count Facebook page)
Let’s hug teacher! The children at Sunrays Educational Centre show some love on Read Across Jamaica Day. (Photo: Crayons Count Facebook page)
Crayons Count's first ever workshop with the Early Childhood Commission at Kingston's Caenwood Centre. (Photo: Crayons Count Facebook page)
Crayons Count’s first ever workshop with the Early Childhood Commission at Kingston’s Caenwood Centre. (Photo: Crayons Count Facebook page)

 

Hands on: a boy at Trench Town Reading Centre learns screen printing. (My photo)
Hands on: a boy at Trench Town Reading Centre learns screen printing. (My photo)
Boys at the Trench Town Reading Centre discuss a book about Nelson Mandela on Mandela Day last year. (My photo)
Boys at the Trench Town Reading Centre discuss a book about Nelson Mandela on Mandela Day last year. (My photo)

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Private sector organizations such as Digicel Jamaica fully support education and programs such as Read Across Jamaica Day. (Photo: Digicel Facebook page)
Private sector organizations such as Digicel Jamaica fully support education and programs such as Read Across Jamaica Day. (Photo: Digicel Facebook page)
Jamaican poet Ann-Margaret Lim reads with her daughter Kayla in the children's section of Bookophilia in Kingston. (My photo)
Jamaican poet Ann-Margaret Lim reads with her daughter Kayla in the children’s section of Bookophilia in Kingston. (My photo)
Ms. Dilobia Johnson is about to get going on one of the new computers donated by GTECH Corporation. (My photo)
Ms. Dilobia Johnson of St. Michael’s Primary School is about to get going on one of the new computers donated by GTECH Corporation today. (My photo)
Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell is enthusiastic about his program, whereby tablets such as these are to be distributed to students and teachers. "Why are we afraid to take on big things?" he asks. (My photo)
Technology Minister Phillip Paulwell is enthusiastic about his new program, whereby tablets such as these are to be distributed to students and teachers. “Why are we afraid to take on big things?” he asks. (My photo)
Deep in thought: Principal of St. Michael's Primary School Dave Allen with some of his students. (My photo)
Deep in thought: Principal of St. Michael’s Primary School Dave Allen with some of his students. (My photo)
Women in education: Dr. Melody Williams, Literacy & Educational Technology Project Advisor, USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project; and Ms. Verna Dawkins, a veteran teacher of over forty years, at the GTECH donation to St. Michael's Primary School. (My photo)
Women in education: Dr. Melody Williams, Literacy & Educational Technology Project Advisor, USAID/Jamaica Basic Education Project; and Ms. Verna Dawkins, a veteran teacher of over forty years, at the GTECH donation to St. Michael’s Primary School. (My photo)
Tower Street Correctional Centre, Kingston.
Tower Street Correctional Centre, Kingston.
Damage in downtown Kingston from the 1907 earthquake. (Photo: National Army Museum, London)
Damage in downtown Kingston from the 1907 earthquake. (Photo: National Army Museum, London)

7 thoughts on “Children. Learn.

  1. Thank you for your great blog! I always enjoy your updates and photos. As a Jamaican by birth and heart (always), living in the U.S., your no-nonsense blog helps keep me informed.Thank you for today’s wonderfully uplifting blog post. Education is the key for these students, for all of us! Kudos for corporate responsibility and giving back to communities. Kudos to like GTECH for this program. Keep up the good work with your blog!

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    1. Thanks so much for your support and for your comments, Michele! I am glad you enjoy my blog (I tell things as I see them!) It’s always uplifting to visit schools and communities like these and to see the vital importance of education. I also commend the private sector (GTECH is a U.S. company that’s working with our local firm Supreme Ventures – a gaming company) because they do give support to education in particular, in many ways. I wish they could do more, but they do their best… Thanks again and please continue reading (and commenting!)

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  2. I am really wondering why most of the pictures for Jamaica have dreadlocks of some sort. I have never been to Jamaica and I am really amazed by their hairstyle. Actually I am keeping my hair long so I can dread-lock it in the future.

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    1. Ha ha! Well, yes – I suppose Jamaicans are quite fond of dreadlocks, although in urban areas they are often more of a fashion/lifestyle statement than anything else. The photo at Trench Town Reading Centre shows a Rastafarian who teaches art and craft to the children – there are quite a few in that area because of the legacy of Bob Marley, who used to live just across the road. But you will also find lots of Rastafarians in the rural areas, too… Send me a photo of your dreadlocks when they happen! 🙂 Thanks for visiting and for your comments!

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      1. Sure thing! But it maybe take a while hahaha. I only started this year. I used to have crew cut or flatop (like those of the army). Good post ! I love Bob Marley too. 🙂

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