Education Minister, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, has commended Jamaica College (JC) on its self- reliance in undertaking a number of development projects.
He expressed the hope that this measure of self-support “will in fact be infectious to the rest of the school system in Jamaica.”
The Education Minister was speaking on Thursday (Jan. 31), at the opening of an apartment building at the school’s Old Hope Road campus. Twelve teachers will occupy the one bedroom units in the ‘Drax Lodge Apartment Building’, which were constructed at a cost of approximately $52 million.
Minister Thwaites expressed great appreciation for the efforts “of the JC partnership in all that you have done, that which you celebrate today and that which you have already established and will go on to do”.
He challenged the school community to extend its brand to another campus and hinted that another “fine Jamaican high school” will be opening a second campus in a rural area come September.
Chairman of the Jamaica College Foundation, Dr. the Hon. R. Danny Williams, explained that the Foundation received a $45 million loan from the National Housing Trust (NHT), which formed the bulk of the funding for the facility.
He thanked the many Old Boys, who made the project possible by contributing in cash and kind and informed that many of them had essentially given free service.
Mr. Williams explained that the Foundation identified housing as a key area that needed to be addressed at the school.
“It became obvious that everybody would benefit if we were able to expand the housing here. The teachers would benefit, the school and above all, the people whom we try to serve, our students, are the ones who would really benefit by having staff on the compound, staff able to work late hours, come early, can just walk to work. It was an absolutely perfect situation,” he said.
He further noted that the Foundation was only charging the teachers rent to cover the mortgage and insurance on the facility. He estimated that the Foundation has invested approximately $400 million over the past seven years in the restoration of the school.
Principal, Ruel Reid, said that the institution tries to assist its teachers so that they can be comfortable but also demands returns on its investment. “We demand the performance, we demand accountability,” he stated.
He noted that the housing project is one of the initiatives that “we have been able to deliver that will add to the value of the school to make us number one. We can attract well qualified, committed teachers, who don’t have to worry about going home long distances in the evening and the boys will have access to them,” Mr. Reid said.
Teacher of the year, Kerry-Ann Watson, thanked the board on behalf of those who will benefit from the facilities. “We appreciate the initiative that was taken to address one of our basic needs, that of shelter. We would not have been able to afford these facilities in this area on our salary, if it had not been for this initiative,” she said.
She noted that the students will also benefit indirectly as the teachers will now be able to use travelling time to prepare for their classes, mark work, or get involved in extracurricular activities and clubs.