Asserting that education is one of the greatest weapons against poverty, Prime Minister and Member of Parliament for South West St. Andrew, Portia Simpson Miller officially opened the new state-of-the-art Union Gardens Infant School in her constituency on Wednesday, January 13. The multi-million dollar institution was made possible through a successful private-public sector partnership managed by the Union Gardens Foundation, which was established to guide the development of the Union Gardens Infant School project. Construction began in March 2015 and was completed in September 2015.
The modern environmentally friendly institution features a spacious auditorium and classrooms; covered walkway-linked buildings with play areas; and landscaped common areas, among other features. The school accommodates children, aged three and a half to five years, with a bus assigned to shuttle the children to and from school, at no cost.
“As Member of Parliament and Prime Minister I want to thank all the donors on behalf of a very grateful constituency,” Mrs. Simpson Miller expressed. “I want to single out my friends the Honourable Glen Christian and Mr. Gary Hendrickson. They continue to give dedicated leadership to the Union Gardens Foundation and the initiative to build this school,” the Prime Minister added.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (right); and Head of Delegation for the European Union (EU) in Jamaica, Ambassador Paola Amedei, unveil a plaque at a ceremony to officially open the new state-of-the-art Union Gardens Infant School in South West St. Andrew on Wednesday, January 13. Construction of the school was completed in September last year, through a $174 million public-private investment partnership, which included support of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund, through its EU Poverty Reduction Programme.
Echoing the Prime Minister’s sentiments on the importance of education to economic development, Mr. Glen Christian, Chairman of the Union Gardens Foundation said that “we cannot have a progressive economy without proper education of our people.” In this regard, Minister of Education, Reverend Ronald Thwaites noted that “education is the winner of this Administration.” He noted that under the Prime Minister’s leadership, the percentage of the budget spent on education has increased from 3 to 14 percent.
Noting that early childhood education has remained among Government’s highest priorities, Prime Minister Simpson Miller outlined some of the key development initiatives undertaken to date. She said that her Administration has provided better facilities for children; building more than 100 early childhood schools and upgrading another 100. Some 300 basic schools were also merged to create more than 100 infant schools of the highest quality and the number of trained teachers in early childhood schools was doubled and their compensation improved. The Prime Minister noted that “Union Gardens Infant School is now the most recent example of the commitment of my Government to early childhood education.”
Addressing the important role that parents must play in their children’s education, the Prime Minister urged them to be integrally involved. “I want to emphasize the critical role parents play in socializing infants, inculcating values and stimulating their awareness. If we want a better society there has to be better parenting,” she said. Mrs. Simpson Miller also underscored the importance of community involvement. “The community must help to ensure that children are protected and cared for. The community must ensure that school facilities, such as this one, are protected and preserved,” she said.
Some of the private sector donors and partners include Cari-Med and Kirk Distributors Foundation; Tank-Weld Group; National Baking Company Foundation; Seprod Limited; Sandals Foundations; Kingston Wharves Limited; Stewart Industrial; Advanced Integrated Systems (AIS); Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS); BH Paints; Gleaner Company Limited; and Food for the Poor. Public sector partners include: the Ministry of Education; Culture, Health, Arts, Sports, and Education (CHASE) Fund; and Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller (centre), looks at a plaque detailing the sponsors of the state-of-the-art Union Gardens Infant School, at the official opening of the institution on Wednesday, January 13. Others (from left) are: Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites; and Managing Director of the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), Mr. Omar Sweeney. The school, located in South West St. Andrew was constructed last year through the collaboration of several public and private partners.
Original Article: http://jis.gov.jm/prime-minister-opens-modern-multimillion-dollar-infant-school-in-south-west-st-andrew/