A Shining Light in Early Childhood Education in the Jamaica Conference
By Rev. Newton G.A. Dixon, 16th Episcopal District
St. John AME Church in Palmers Cross, Jamaica announces the building of a new school to house 100 students. This is exciting news for the education of children in the Palmers Cross area and for Jamaica. The engagement in early childhood education is one of the important outreach ministries conducted by AME congregations in the Jamaica Conference. These are in the form of basic schools, known in other jurisdictions as “preschool” or “kindergarten.” Early childhood education is a major need in Jamaica and AME churches have, for many decades, been visionaries and pioneers in their ministry to children and their parents.
One of the first mandates which the churches took was to provide education. The broad objectives have always been to stimulate and prepare our “precious jewels” for the world and the church. At present, several AME churches in the Jamaica Conference operate basic schools. One of the bright lights in the basic school ministry is the Old Road Basic School, which is operated by St. John AME Church, in Palmers Cross, Jamaica, under the leadership of the Rev. Newton G.A. Dixon.
Old Road Basic School has been in operation for over 40 years and has been the cognitive incubator for countless persons who have gone on to make a name for themselves and to contribute in spectacular ways to our society and the wider world. The School is presently located on the premises of the church property, adjacent to the sanctuary in the community of Palmers Cross, Clarendon. It is managed by a governing board chaired by the pastor, the Rev. Newton Dixon. The board is comprised of an inclusive representation of stakeholders, namely the Parent Teachers’ Association, the community, and the local church. The School is staffed by four teachers, two ancillary workers, one clerical officer, and a food preparation specialist. There are presently 50 students on roll who range in age from three to five years old. There are three classes which are designated by age.
Old Road Basic School is scheduled to receive a new building in the 2016-17 school year, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education of the Government of Jamaica and supporting funding agencies. This will be a state-of-the-art facility with a wide array of learning spaces and equipment. The new school will be a significant boost and blessing and a well-needed upgrade from the present structure which has been compromised by structural challenges and limitations of space. Through this ministry, St. John AME Church will be able to handle 100 students.
On Thursday, October 20, 2016, the Old Road Basic School was honoured with a visit by the Rt. Rev. E. Anne Henning Byfield, the Presiding Prelate of the 16th Episcopal District. She saw the basic schools as a profound affirmation of our education programme as well as the importance of our ministry to the children of our church and community. The children and staff were excited and delighted to meet her. Each child was met individually and engaged in conversation. The members of staff were commended and encouraged by Bishop Henning Byfield. The building of a new school building will fit appropriately into the new thrust which has been given to the District by our bishop, to dream and achieve “Above and Beyond,” of which St. John is certainly achieving the dream.