Georgetown, Guyana – (August 31, 2019) Director General of the Ministry of the Presidency, Mr. Joseph Harmon, this morning, returned to the La Retraite Primary School where he delivered on a promise, made three days ago, to provide a gas stove for its school feeding programme and to rehabilitate the school’s playground. The Director General also ensured that the gas bottles, fittings and other materials needed for the setup were procured as well.

Mr. Harmon said he hosted a community meeting in the area on Wednesday, where parents and a former student of the school made a request for the soggy and weed-infested playground to be upgraded for the students in time for the new school year. They also asked for a gas stove to be provided to the school, for its feeding programme, which is sponsored and supported by residents.

Mr. Harmon said the residents are coming together to assist the students and to ensure that there are no hindrances to the access to education, he felt compelled to respond to their request immediately.

“I know a very strong case was made at the outreach for the children of this school and I am very impressed with the fact that the residents had taken up the responsibility of ensuring that these children have a meal when they come to school. I recall in my time; someone had done a study of children in rural communities and the reason why they weren’t doing as well as the children in the city. He found that many children were coming to school hungry. Since then, we have invested heavily in education. From 2015 to now, every year we have increased the allocations to the education sector and if you look at the results of the National Grade Six Assessment and the Caribbean Secondary Examinations Council (CSEC), you will find a difference in the results. Our children are performing better and it is because of initiatives like these that allow them to learn in a better environment. So I am happy to respond to this request,” he said.

With regard to rehabilitating the playground, Mr. Harmon said that students must become well rounded individuals who are able to incorporate some leisure time in their academic activities. The playground is an important component in allowing students access to recreation and sports.

“Our children must be able to learn and play. Too many of our children are just going to school and then they go home and study and the go back to school. They have no break. They are not involved in any extra curricula activities and so this facility is important for them to learn and play. It helps to contribute to a better learning environment and I am happy to help in this process of providing a better environment for them to learn and be in the school feeding programme,” the Director General said.

Mrs. Maureen Bruning-Waldrond, a former student of the school, who requested Mr. Harmon’s assistance at the community meeting, said that she is pleased and pleasantly surprised that the request was fulfilled in such short time.

“I have to say big thank you for this prompt response. Words cannot express how we feel. We certainly didn’t expect it so soon but we are overjoyed and grateful for this,” she said.

She noted that about six months, she received some reports that several students were going to school hungry and she, therefore, decided to act. While the programme initially catered to the neediest students, she said that from September, a meal will be provided for every one of the 90 students.

“A year ago, it was brought to my attention that the students were going to school hungry and it struck a chord within me. I could not sit and see this happen so I decided to send a contribution … so that they can take care of the students who were most in need and that went on for a few months. But I wanted to do more for the children so I called up my family and friends and I shared the vision with them and we did some fundraisers. We were able to raise enough for the rest of the new school term for every child,” Mrs. Bruning -Waldrond explained.

Head Mistress of the school, Mrs. Rosanne Alleyne, in an invited comment, said that both the initiative and the donation are welcomed, since all her students will now benefit.

“I am very pleased. It was something that has burdened the teachers for the longest while because we were, in our own little way, responding to the needs of our children but when Mrs. Waldrond came on board, we were extremely pleased and today, we are even more overjoyed for the gas stove. Thank you very much for the kind gesture and the children are really responding to this initiative. We are pleased that from now all the children will be able to benefit instead of only the 30 we initially catered for,” Mrs. Alleyne said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Deoroopie, who has volunteered to conduct the works on the playground, said that he is motivated by President David Granger’s ‘Boats, Buses and Bicycles’, which has now evolved into the Public Education Transport Services (PETS), and how it has improved the lives of children.

“I thought it was necessary for me to respond because I have the equipment and the know-how and I think that it will bring benefit to the community because we are probably the only community over here, which does not have a proper playground. So I have made myself the goal to make it one of the better grounds in the region. We will clear it, harrow it and level it, roll it and fill it with sand so that they can have access in the rainy and dry season. The President has done a lot to improve access to education with the ‘Five Bs’ programme and so it is important that we connect to that and help to better the lives of these leader of tomorrow,” he said.

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