High School Honey. This kind that comes in a bottle…..not the other kind that you might remember from your school days.
On May 20th, The Star Newspaper featured the school’s agricultural program, (programme for British spellers), headlined – FARMING IN THE CITY, written by reporter Sashana Small. We are reprinting parts of her story for this article.
Audley Sanson, head of the agricultural department at the St. Andrew Technical High School (STATHS), is convinced that his school has the best agricultural science programme in the country.
In fact, he has a five-year plan of making it the best programme in the Caribbean. When THE STAR team visited the school, Sanson proudly led us around the farm, which was sectionalised in different areas on the compound.
Sanson said he started the programme 24 years ago with a few rows of callaloo and 23 students. Now, the programme has grown to include both crop and livestock rearing. Scattered on the school’s compound are plots where produce such as corn, sweet pepper, tomato, garden egg, cabbage etc. are planted.
There’s also a thriving apiary, a chicken coop for layers, a greenhouse, and a pig pen. The school even has a slaughter house.
Agricultural science is embedded in the school’s curriculum and students are introduced to it from grade seven . Each year, Sanson said,up to 40 students sit the subject at Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Exam levels, and the school boasts a 100 per cent pass rate.
There’s one challenge that up until recently, Sanson and his staff found unbearable – the drought. My grade 10 students are assessed on performance over time. Sometimes when the exam moderators come we have very little to show after months of effort raising crops, and it goes against them. But thanks to 4-H and other stakeholders, we are now erecting tanks for rainwater harvesting.
Currently, the programme is funded by the school, but Sanson is hoping to get stakeholders on board to offer scholarships to his students. ” I would love to see all of my 14 students on scholarships to CASE ( College of Agriculture, Science and Education), where they can do food processing. But, unfortunately, we don’t have a system like that where we can move them. Many of my students are from the most violent inner-city areas, and they are the ones who are doing extremely well, but they are not able to move beyond STATHS . ” he said.