East Central St Catherine GSAT students get support
Since 2015, attorney-at-law Alando Terrelonge and his team have been engaged in a programme dubbed ‘GSAT Education Programme’. The effort was aimed at ensuring that the students in the constituency of St Catherine East Central sitting the exam all had an equal opportunity to successfully do so. Now in his first year as the official Member of Parliament (MP), the programme is in year three.
"I decided on such a programme after speaking to the then principal at the Naggo Head Primary School, Principal Plummer, who indicated to me that some years students came to sit the exam without pencils and other items, which forced teachers to search for extra pencils to give the students so they could sit their exam," Terrelonge told the Jamaica Observer.
At the inception, a partnership with Kingston Bookshop and Campbell’s Stationery aided to provide pencils, erasers, sharpeners, and rulers to over 400 students who sat the examination at the Naggo Head Primary School.
"In 2016, we were able to secure more sponsorship and extended the programme to Gregory Park Primary and Independence City Primary," said the first-time MP.
This year, the team started a week of activities to benefit the Grade Six Achievement Test pupils. On Tuesday, Tuesday March 14, at the Gregory Park Primary School, the team shared morning devotion with 90 students.
"I gave them a motivational speech challenging them to believe in themselves and telling them how proud I am of them... Always have faith in yourself and trust in God to do the rest. Study hard, study well, and remember, ‘if yuh want good yuh nose haffi run’. Do not let anyone tell you that you are worthless or that you wont amount to anything. Be confident and work hard and you will realise that there is nothing that you set your mind to that you can’t achieve," the team leader told Career & Education. This was followed by the distribution of stationery packages consisting of pencils, sharpeners, erasers, and rulers to each student.
Similar activities were held at Naggo Head Primary School with a grade six cohort of over 400 students. The children eagerly awaited what has now become a tradition. The entire school community welcomed the gesture.
The student population, from grades one to six, at Independence City Primary, shared in the exercise when the wave of encouragement reached them.
"I wanted to do this to build a culture of excellence at this school and give the younger students something to look forward to when they reached grade six," said Terrelonge.
This year, the education programme got bigger and better. Not only did the team provide stationery and supplies for the 650 students sitting the exam in the constituency, but each student, on both Thursday and Friday, received breakfast.
"As the Member of Parliament, parents often come to me and ask for assistance with providing food or lunch money for their children. Many teachers have also sought my intervention in assisting with a breakfast programme for some very needy students who weren’t able to get on the PATH [Programme for Advancement Through Health and Education]," Terrelonge explained.
He added: "I am aware of many students who are often forced to stay home because their parents could not afford to send them to school due to lack of financial resources, so this year I wanted all of my GSAT students to sit their exam without worrying about breakfast, etc. I approached Chris Williams at Proven Investments Limited and he loved the idea. And just like that he and his team came on board and funded the breakfast for our 650 students as our main sponsor. Catherine Goodall from Lasco and Karl Wynter from Geddes also came on board and offered some assistance.
"I maintain that the key to transforming any nation rests in transforming the lives of our children through solid education. To that end, I have made education the primary focus of my constituency development plan. Imagine the possibilities if we each spent an hour or two each week mentoring, educating and inspiring the next children? They would beendless."
Terrelonge thanked the principal and his staff at Gregory Park, Naggo Head, and Independence City primary schools for the hard work in preparing the students. Specific mention was made of the Fullers and team at Kingston Bookshop for providing stationery for the third year and to George Neil and his team from Index who joined the effort this year.