CFS Leadership Ambassador Keeping H.O.P.E Alive

Nestled on the hilly terrain of eastern Portland, Rural Hill Primary and Infant school is the beacon of the community. Driven by a powerful sense of hope, the dynamic principal Mrs. Nicola Barclay-Morris has spearheaded a series of transformational projects that reflect the fundamental principles of child-friendly schools. Mrs. Barclay-Morris was a part of the pilot cohort for the Child-Friendly School (CFS) Leadership online course, which was officially launched on January 30, 2020 by the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). She was among the 27 principals who were installed as CFS Principal Ambassadors and who were charged with contributing their expertise and knowledge to the national education dialogue. These Principal Ambassadors are also expected to continuously improve their knowledge base on issues related to CFS and then share information with colleagues and key stakeholders across the country. Mrs. Barclay-Morris has been successfully engaging her stakeholders around the principles of child-friendly schools, which are child-centeredness, inclusiveness, democratic participation and protection.

Keeping H.O.P.E Alive
Mrs. Barclay-Morris began her stint as principal of Rural Hill Primary and Infant school in May 2018 and became immediately concerned about the undesirable state of the physical plant. However, she was not daunted by this challenge which viewed as an opportunity to rebrand the school through the lens of H.O.P.E. The CFS course informed her initiatives moving forward as she led Rural Hill Primary on a transformational journey – one project at a time. She started with a collaborative process of identifying the traits that she would like to see her students exhibit in the child-friendly school environment she was preparing to create. Using the acronym H.O.P.E, stakeholders selected features such as honesty, obedience, polite and efficient to drive behaviour interventions aimed at creating a positive school ethos. These features have been attractively designed, printed and strategically placed on the school grounds to communicate traits to all visitors. She then sensitized school community about child-friendly schools by painting a mural with the CFS logo as well as the principles the school promoted.

Mrs Barclay-Morris’ most recent initiative was in direct response to Covid-19 pandemic which she indicated had “affected our students immensely giving rise to the need for psychosocial sessions with the Counsellors”. Given the shortage of space in her small multigrade school, she mobilized resources from past students to create a psychosocial garden with a gazebo that is currently being used for individual and group counselling sessions. Dubbed the H.O.P.E Psychosocial Garden, the space is furnished with wooden benches and print materials serving dual purposes of encouragement and education as principles of child-friendly school are subtly reinforced.

Impact of H.O.P.E
Mrs. Barclay-Morris indicated that, as a CFS Principal Ambassador, working with stakeholders is of paramount importance. The school Board has been quite supportive of the projects she has implemented and the past students, who are the primary benefactors, have bought into her vision on the same day it was communicated. Teachers, parents, and students, she shared, are all “very excited about their school being branded a child-friendly school” and assist in every way they possible can. Speaking of the impact of these projects, Mrs. Barclay-Morris was most pleased about the way the students received the Psychosocial Garden indicating that students who have been called into sessions “are very excited about the ambiance” and have embraced the tagline ‘Happy Children, Happy Nation’ as their own. According to Mrs. Barclay-Morris, the projects she has implemented as a CFS Principal Ambassador have enhanced the physical appearance of the school while engendering a more collaborative spirit filled with care. “The school enrollment has increased as a result of my engagement with the CFS Principal Ambassador Programme,” Mrs. Barclay-Morris said, adding her personal tagline “Happy Children, Happy Teachers, Happy Principal”.

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