Thousands labour for safer school environment
Prime Minister Andrew Holness painting a rail at Papine High School on Thursday. (PHOTOS: Marlon Reid)
Hundreds of workers turned out at Papine High School on Thursday to take part in the national Labour Day project.
It was one of five national projects that took place across the island Thursday with the others being at Fair Prospect Primary in Portland; Holland Primary School in St Elizabeth; and Barrett Town All-Age and John Rollins Primary School in St James.
Representatives from the political directorate, corporate Jamaica, Non-Government Organisations (NGO), Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), community representatives and students joined forces in keeping with this year's Labour Day theme, 'Child Safety...it's you, it's me, it's all ah we'!
In Papine, the activities included painting of pedestrian walks in and around the school, painting of railings and other infrastructure, bushing and garbage harvesting and collection.
Speaking at a welcome ceremony, Prime Minister Andrew Holness explained that it was the labour strike of 1938 that charted the course for Jamaica's two main political parties, the Jamaica Labour Party and the People's National Party.
According to the prime minister, the labour strike was integral to Jamaica's development as it brought a level of social and political organisation that resulted in the formation of political parties that eventually led to self-governance and independence.
He said, "the labour movement is the start and is very integral to who we are as Jamaicans and every year we celebrate this day.
"It should not be a day where we stay home and take it as a holiday. It should be a day when we come out of our homes and work together to build our nation," Holness said.
Leader of the Opposition, Dr Peter Phillips said Labour Day teaches values that are essential to the survival of the country. According to Phillips, among the lessons of Labour Day is self-reliance, civic duty and volunteerism.
Phillips said, "we need to recognise that we as citizens hold the future in our hand. It also embodies the sense of civic responsibility without which no nation can be properly built and it embodies the spirit of volunteerism, which many times people ignore but which should never be forgotten."
Among the entities that participated in the project were the Jamaica National Foundation and United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which for the last two years have been collaborating on a project aimed at the safe transportation of children to and from school.
Vincente Teran, UNICEF's deputy representative in Jamaica and JN Foundation's general manager Onyka Barrett Scott, said their project was referred to the National Labour Day Committee and eventually turned into the focus for this year's Labour Day project.
Teran said, "we cannot forget that children are going to be the drivers of the future so we are very happy that this year, Labour Day is focused on children safety and road safety.
"We have a long term project with Jamaica National that's called X Marks The Spot and that involves working on infrastructure in schools so they are safer, like painting crosswalks, arranging infrastructure, providing education on road safety so that children are less exposed to the risk of road accidents," he told Loop News reporter Job Nelson.
Barrett Scott Scott said, "this year, we actually initiated a project in collaboration with UNICEF and Abilities Foundation that is going to look at infrastructure work at 18 schools across the island over the next three years because we are interested in how we can keep the children safe to and from schools.
"As a natural extension of that, we had the opportunity through UNICEF Advocacy to have this become the focus of Labour Day this year and so the JN Foundation has been leading in organising across the country, alongside UNICEF and the National Labour Day Committee," she said.
Meanwhile, Chief of Defence Staff Lieutenant General Rocky Meade of the Jamaica Defence Force, which had approximately 150 army men and women participating, said the JDF's participation was part of its mission to contribute to youth engagement and national development.
Meade said: "the JDF sees itself as being part of national development generally. We take it as a responsibility not only to be focussed on strictly defence and security matters, but anything we can contribute to national development and youth engagement is a big part of what we do."
Also at the welcome ceremony were Mayor of Kingston Delroy Williams; Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange; Minister of Science, Energy and Technology, Fayval Williams, who is also Member of Parliament for the constituency; Spanish Ambassador to Jamaica, Josep Bosch Bessa; and vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Council, Dr Lucien Jones.