ST. MARY’S R.C. SCHOOL: A HAVEN FOR OUR KIDS
The floors and walls were being scrubbed clean. The colourful paint had been freshly applied. The vibrant cartoon and animated murals had come to life once again. There was a flurry of activity as principal, teachers and workmen alike readied the school for the students who were about to enter its gates for the new school year. This was the scene that greeted me when I visited the St. Mary’s R.C. School on Friday August 31, 2018 and while I have become accustomed to seeing this each year that I have been a St. Mary’s parent (since 2010), I believe that they have outdone themselves this time.
Bombarded with the depressing stories of rising crime in our society, it is becoming more and more difficult to strike a balance between making our kids aware of their changing society and yet preserving their childhood innocence. Schools are where our children spend their most alert hours of each week day and for this reason it ought to be a safe, clean, welcoming, child-friendly environment that not only encourages learning but promotes a positive, upbeat attitude. St. Mary’s R.C. School has struck the right balance, combining colour, inspirational messages and familiar animated characters in an array of vivid wall murals throughout the school.
While the School has its challenges with regard to its limited space and resources, the principal, Ms. Eula Johnny, and her team of loving and dedicated teachers and support staff have never adopted a laissez-faire approach, but instead have been proactive and driven in their desire to improve the school environment, even painting brightly coloured images on the blackboards that separate the classes and creating cozy reading corners in some classrooms. Their efforts have also extended to the psychological and the spiritual well-being of each child. The broadcasting of religious songs through the School’s PA system, prior to morning prayers, is a welcome addition that would, no doubt, have a calming effect on a usually rambunctious school population, enabling them to better handle conflict resolution now and in the future.
UNICEF has put out a Manual on Child-Friendly Schools, in which it mentioned diverse efforts made in countries worldwide to transform schools into child-friendly ones.
This was a major focus of UNICEF’s investment in education in the Eastern and Southern Africa region where such efforts centred on classroom processes and the school environment to promote more ‘joyful learning’.
According to UNICEF’s Manual, “the transformations are depicted in ‘before and after’ photographs of classrooms and schools that show the simple measures employed to promote change, such as:
(a) Brightly painted rooms, clean floors and colourful displays on walls;
(b) Child-appropriate furniture arranged flexibly for a variety of learning approaches; (c) Pupil activity centres or learning corners created around the classroom;
(d) Adequate water and sanitation facilities;
(e) Provision of recreation kits;
(f) Nutritious school meals.”
While the Manual pointed out that there has been little systematic evaluation of the impact of such changes on the child, the impressionistic conclusions of parents and teachers is that the child thrives in such a pleasant environment and teachers feel a greater sense of professionalism and pride as educators.
As a parent, I have come to a similar conclusion with respect to the effect that a pleasant learning environment can have on a child, and the proven track record of the St. Mary’s R.C. School affirms that view and is reassuring of the School’s continued excellence. In a small economy such as ours, St. Mary’s R.C. School is proof that even with little we can do a lot. Well done St. Mary’s! Keep up the good work!
Zhinga Horne Edwards
A proud and grateful St. Mary’s R.C. School parent