Ahead of the start of the 2020/2021 academic year, work is far advanced to improve the drought management strategy and enhance the sanitation systems within seven infant and primary schools across St. Ann, Hanover, St. James and Westmoreland. In January, long before Jamaica recorded its first coronavirus infection, the National Education Trust, with the support of the Sandals Foundation embarked on implementing its “Water Harvesting and Sanitation for Schools” project as part of efforts to mitigate drought conditions, implement sustainable water harvesting systems, and improve sanitation facilities for over 200 children across the 4 parishes.
The activities are valued at more than J$7 million and is made possible through an ongoing partnership between the Sandals Foundation and Coca Cola.
Shirley Moncrieffe, Director of Education Donor Projects at the National Education Trust, says the water and sanitation program is crucial in enhancing the social, economic, and health realities of students.
“The lack of water has a harmful effect in the quality of life for our children as it not only causes various diseases, but it contributes to poor sanitation and hygiene and retards education outcomes.”
Through this project, Moncrieffe said, “We aim to ensure that children ages 4 to 12 years old have access to safe drinking water, adequate sanitary toilet and hand washing facilities, and minimized exposure to mosquito infestation and diseases.”
Benefiting schools are Cocoon Castle Primary & Infant School as well as Success Primary & Infant School in Hanover, Holly Hill Primary & Infant School, Kings Primary & Infant School in Westmoreland, Lime Hall Primary & Infant School in St. Ann, and Farm Primary & Infant School in St. James. The seventh school will be completed in the coming weeks.
Now, as the island’s academic year seeks to resume in a new reality characterized by the global COVID-19 pandemic, sustainable water and sanitation systems are even more greatly needed.
“These systems will complement the sustained efforts of teachers and parents to develop healthy sanitation habits amongst children,” said Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at the Sandals Foundation.
“The infant and primary school years,” Clarke continued, “are critical stages of a child’s personal and educational growth. The Sandals Foundation is committed to ensuring that children are not denied class time because of the unavailability of water, so by strengthening the external resources that are provided during this crucial time, we can help keep our children healthy and create a strong foundation that sets them on a positive trajectory.”
Clean Water and Sanitation as well as Good Health and Wellbeing represent goals number 6 and 3 respectively of the Sustainable Development Goals for which Jamaica is a signatory and an active partner in implementing.
The Sandals Foundation executive welcomes the program of the National Education Trust noting that “as Jamaica charts forward with its national targets to achieve these Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative for every capable stakeholder to do what we can to promote the health and well-being of persons of all ages and to increase access to clean water.”
The National Education Trust’s Water Harvesting & Sanitation for Schools Project seeks to install systems within 344 schools that have been identified by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to be in critical need of water storage facilities.