The Church in Jamaica has played a leading role in education from the nineteenth century until today. The Church has built more schools; been involved in the training of more teachers and educating more students than any other institution, as noted in my book, Rebellion to Riot: the Church in Nation Building. Recently, the Jamaica Baptist Union (JBU), in association with the Cari-Med Foundation, built a brand new basic school at Top Hill, Clarendon. The JBU, which manages the school, provided the land while Cari-Med Foundation provided funding of $70 million.
The person behind the Cari-Med Foundation is Glen Christian, a past student of Top Hill Basic School and graduate of Mico Teachers' College. Christian is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Cari-Med and Kirk Distributors. To the best of my knowledge, this $70-million investment is the largest investment by a family-owned company in Jamaica in early-childhood education. There was Karl Hendrickson who donated $50m to his alma mater Jamaica College over a period of years. What is remarkable with Christian's investment in early-childhood education is that it is not spread over a period of time. What is equally remarkable is that this investment is not to a name-brand traditional high school, but to an unheralded basic school in rural Jamaica. Many persons have been making the point that the most important foundational work needs to start at the early-childhood level, but no one before Christian, in recent times, has made such a major investment. And the investment continues.
Many persons have hailed the resurgence of Jamaica College and have rightly hailed the role of principal Ruel Reid, chairman R. Danny Williams and the philanthropy of Hendrickson. It will be necessary to study Top Hill Basic School to determine what difference this investment made to the academic performance of the students and their overall development. It would also be useful to find out how the students view themselves based on the excellent surroundings which are 'green'. Each classroom has its own bathroom. The design has the stamp of well-known architects Mark and Susan Taylor. And the teachers will be operating in a modern administrative facility. It is possible that these teachers will be more motivated to perform at a higher level. Top Hill is destined to be a top early-childhood institution in Clarendon and Jamaica.
Let us hope that the story of Glen Christian is told, at least yearly, to the students, in order to inspire them.
Christian has mixed entrepreneurship with education.
Glen is a Christian in name and nature, by his humble and selfless gift to our children's education.
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of Boulevard Baptist Church in Andrew. Send feedback to email@example.com.
Originally published April 14, 2011 in The Jamaica Gleaner