Jamaican School Days: New Providence Primary School

Photos by Martei Korley

school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-1

You can tell a lot about a child from how they wear their school uniform, and maybe even more about the adult they will one day grow up to be. This much is apparent in Jamaican School Days, a four-part photo series from LargeUp’s Martei Korley.

Uniforms, compulsory in all Jamaican schools, are not an impediment to self-expression in these images, shot over four days at four schools across the island. Instead, they are a challenge we see motivating students to express their individuality.

Part one, seen here, takes us to New Providence Primary School, at 36 1/2 Barbican Road, Kingston 6. Located near the Sovereign shopping centre on Hope Road — a familiar landmark for most Jamaicans — New Providence sits in the shadow of the National Chest Hospital, adjacent to the Standpipe community. The kids in these photos are between the ages of 6 and 12; Sometimes, as in a photo of a doll-wielding girl crying for an older friend to play with her, this is quite apparent. In others, it can seem like we are viewing miniature adults, confident, knowing and ready for the world.

Throughout the set, students display a remarkable sense of self that has to be chalked up to Jamaica itself. Jamaican schools may rigidly enforce rules for dress and grooming designed to place all students on equal footing, but they are producing students able to express exactly who they are from a very young age.

Scroll down below for the full Jamaican School Days: New Providence Primary School photo set, with commentary from the photographer. We’ll be sharing the rest of the series in the coming weeks.

school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-7

In these photos, you’re seeing pre-adolescent boys, but you already get a sense of what they would be like grown up. Their individuality is shining through.

school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-2

Here’s a crew of friends lining up for a group picture. Everybody’s showing a different face.

school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-3

When you are photographing children in a large group, attention is not necessarily afforded to everybody in a frame. If you hang around a bit longer, inevitably you will get another option. When you shoot kids, if you are patient, sometimes they will give you their own show.

school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-4A future teen idol, posing with a few fans.
school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-5Jamaica ah No. 1! Students pose with three of Jamaica’s National Heroes — Marcus Garvey, Paul Bogle and George William Gordon — painted on a school wall by a local artist.
school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-6
These girls are sharing a patty they just bought at a concession stand in the yard, playing ring games before running upstairs to class. They show themselves as little Jamaicans — always ready to strike a pose for a camera with a friendly face behind it.
school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-8
These were some of the youngest students in the school. The boys don’t know whether to look at the camera or to look at the girls. Typical school pickney sinting!
school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-10There’s a dynamic here, but what is it? This little girl wants her friend to play with her.
school-jamaica-barbican-new-primary-11

A bit of educational art, painted on a cement wall in a school hallway. Jamaica has mostly cement walls, which lend themselves more to decoration than bricks, and there’s always an element of neo-realism present in the community, whether it be in the form of advertising, public service or, in this case, education.