Kingston, Jamaica: Union Basic School is among the latest batch of schools to receive Early Childhood Commission (ECC) certification.
Located in a subsistence farming community, approximately eight miles out of the town of Ocho Rios, the school was issued its certification in June 2017 and will start the 2017/18 academic year among the 57 early childhood institutions (ECIs) accredited by the ECC.
Emma Moncrieffe-James, who established Union Basic in 1991 with six students on her verandah, is ecstatic.
“We have taken early childhood education to a new level in the community. No longer does a child from Union have to stay home because he/she has to travel too far to get to school and this is one of our great achievements,” shared Moncrieffe-James, who was awarded the Governor-General’s Achievement Awards from Governor-General Sir Patrick Allen in 2014 for her work in the community.
The small school grappled to stay afloat financially after two years of operation, but in 1993 the Cecil Boswell Facey Foundation (CBFF), the charitable arm of PanJam Investment Limited, began to support the school.
Emma Moncrieffe-James, founding
principal of Union Basic School
“The CBFF has been our rock since 1993. Let us just say the Union Basic School would not exist without the support of the CBFF. Being a small school in a poor community we are not able to generate much funds. The CBFF has over the many years kept the school going by ensuring that each month our members of staff have salaries to go home with. We are most grateful for this assistance,” Moncrieffe-James imparted. The CBFF support is valued at $2.5 million each year.
The investment in the school by CBFF provided the opportunity for Moncrieffe-James to focus on achieving the ECC mandates for her 25 students.
In 2009, the school received its first inspection for certification and obtained a permit to operate. By 2014, Union Basic School was rated best in zone 18.
“We were always waiting on directives from the ECC. It was in 2016 that we were told that we were on the list for certification for this year, and so we really stepped up the drive. During our certification drive many parents came out and gave their support in helping to enhance the physical appearance of the plant,” Moncrieffe-James explained.
Union Basic School sought to fulfill the 12 operating standards, which include: staffing; development and educational programmes; interactions and relationships with children; physical environment; indoor and outdoor equipment; health; nutrition; safety; child rights; parent and stakeholder participation; administration and finance in working towards its goal of ECC certification.
Union Basic School student Demari Marsh enjoys community-created merry-go-round at the school’s playground in St Ann.
The ECC, established by the Early Childhood Commission Act (2003), creates and co-ordinates strategic goals to improve the quality of early childhood care, education and development within the early childhood sector. That is, to ensure the delivery of high quality early childhood programmes and services, which provide equity and access for children zero to eight years within healthy, safe and nurturing environments.
For Moncrieffe-James, this certification is another rung in the school’s ladder to success.
“Having certification behind us, we hope that we will get to focus more on our multipurpose room. We see this as a priority. We need to have more space in the school that in the future we can have more children. We also need the children and the teachers to enjoy the most ideal situations as we think this will boost morale, as well as learning,” she said.
The school’s success also extends to the students who have passed through its gates. “Throughout the years, the school has held steadfast to the early childhood curriculum; a very comprehensive plan that speaks to the holistic development of the child. We have produced students who have gone on to attaining good passes in the GSAT for traditional high schools. We are proud that one past student is studying chemical engineering overseas; another just graduated as an architect from UTech (University of Technology Jamaica), and others doing medicine, and nursing.”
The staff and principal Moncrieffe-James are keen to meet the ECCs six integrated developmental objectives: intellectual empowerment; communication, valuing culture; respect; resilience; and wellness, surely with the support of the CBFF.
CB FACEY FOUNDATION
Cecil Boswell Facey Foundation is the charitable arm of PanJam Investment Limited for over 30 years. The Foundation is helping to shape the society by investing in arts and education through relationships the National Gallery of Jamaica, the Boys’ Town Infant and Primary School, Union and Lalyce Gray basic schools, and Jamaica Association for the Deaf. The CBFF also invests in the environment, economic growth and business sustainability through continuous projects.
Parent Mellisa Patterson participates in the recent beautification process at Union Basic School.
Guiding the Union Basic School beautification process are (from left) board corresponding sponsor Martin Jones; board member Stephen Moncrieffe; community member Kenneth Graham; and Zone 18 development officers Lattamar Coombs and M. Shirley.
The classrooms at Union Basic School all feature interactive learning areas.