Staff, students and the community were excited to open the doors of the new Wakefield Infant School in January. This was made possible through the generous funding by the Carpenters’ Union and the partnership of Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation. An incredible group of skilled volunteers worked tirelessly for three days in the summer of 2018, accomplishing an incredible amount of work to ensure students would have access to free education in an environment conducive to learning.

For years, Wakefield School received students from other early childhood schools, but found the students were not ready to handle the grade one curriculum, presenting problems throughout their entire educational journey. To reduce this challenge, in 2017, the school started its own infant department so they could teach the students from the age of 3, ensuring the transition from the infant to primary school was as seamless as possible and students would not be overwhelmed with the curriculum.

By opening a government funded infant school, the community now has access to free early childhood education. Many parents couldn’t afford tuition fees for the private basic schools in the community, which meant a lot of children attended school irregularly, if at all. As Mr. Michael James, Principal of Wakefield, said, “we knew setting up our infant department would be free of cost and that would change the game in how parents responded to education for their toddlers, as well as how the students would perform academically”. However, opening the infant school without new classrooms led to major space issues and overcrowding in the primary school classrooms, as space was created for the infant students.

The school and community were overwhelmed when they heard their application for a Food For The Poor school had been approved and they were pleasantly surprised at how quickly it all came together. They now have a spacious, four classroom infant school, complete with child-friendly furniture, a kitchen with a new stove and fridge, age appropriate washrooms, a water harvesting system, fence and playground. The school has very quickly grown from 15 to 45 students in their new infant school, with others waiting to attend as soon as another teacher is hired.

Mr. Michael James shared his gratitude to Food For The Poor, Carpenters and HHJF by saying, “a big ‘thank you’ for being involved in this project. We are immensely grateful and we are overjoyed. The community is also appreciative. We have seen progress at Wakefield Primary and Infant School. If we didn’t receive help we would still be struggling in a classroom packed and divided by chalkboards and the children would not be learning as they should, so a big ‘thank you’ to all. Change has already started. Some of the infant students are reading already. Continuing in this vein, by the time our infants go to grade one, the teachers will not have to re-teach concepts as they’ll have already received a great foundation. Once again, to the team, ‘thank you’”.