As part of its mission to become self-sufficient, the administration at Best Care Special Education School in Kingston has established a vegetable farm and shade house at the institution.
The project was initiated by the Kiwanis Club of Constant Spring and supported by Food for the Poor, the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, St Andrew Junior Chamber, Forestry Department and Jamaica Agricultural Society.
Speaking yesterday (June 21) during the opening ceremony for the garden and shade house, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education and Youth, Marsha Smith, commended the school and its partners for embracing the national drive to grow and eat more local produce.
“The emphasis on school gardens is an important part of the Ministry’s approach to the nutrition policy,” she noted.
School Chairman, Orville Johnson, shared that efforts were made in the past to plant crops, but water supply was always an issue.
He pointed out, however, that a successful rainwater harvesting project and investment in water tanks have paved the way for sustainable management of the farm, primarily during periods of drought.
Johnson, who also chairs the Best Care Foundation, noted that the school’s administration is committed to providing a diverse curriculum for the institution’s 160 students.
Along with academic subjects, students are taught cosmetology, music, home life, textile skills, sports and barbering.
“Agriculture is going to be added to our programme. We’re not just going to have a farm here; it will be incorporated into our programme. So, students will learn some basic things about farming, which they can put to use later,” Johnson indicated.
INCOME-EARNING ELEMENT WITH SALES
Among the crops cultivated on the farm are pak choi, callaloo, cabbage, lettuce, sweet pepper, scotch bonnet pepper and corn.
“There is also an income-earning element with sales to parents and members of our community, which is already happening on a small scale. In time, it will support our canteen,” Johnson advised.
For her part, teacher of farming and vocational studies, Geneva Cooper, informed that the profits from sales are reinvested into the farm.
She pointed out that the shade house has a variety of plants that were transplanted by students, and advised that discussions are being held with stakeholders to determine how to maximise the use of the space.
In his remarks, Member of Parliament for St Andrew South Eastern, Julian Robinson, said he was pleased about the strides the school has made to become self- sufficient and sustainable.
Robinson added that the institution provides a “well-needed service” at an affordable cost and urged the administrators to continue to make a meaningful impact in the lives of children.
Meanwhile, Smith underscored that the Education Ministry is committed to improving the special education system.
“At the end of it, we want to ensure that our children and the stakeholders that support them have an educational setting that caters to their needs and gives them the tools to grow up in a society where they can thrive,” Smith said.
In addition to meeting their educational needs, Smith pointed out that it is important that they are equipped with skills to “become integral members of society.”