It has been 3 years since visiting Jamaica and I didn’t know what to expect. How much has the Pandemic influence the economic, social and education function of the country? What changes would be visually evident? To my surprise, the country appeared unchanged, and the people remained the same. I firstly headed to St. Thomas to visit Bath Primary School which received 24 boxes of school supplies during the Pandemic.
The road to Morant Bay was horrible as it was being resurfaced and prepared for a new highway from Kingston through St. Thomas and took us twice the time to reach our destination.
Once we were at Bath, it was as if time stood still as the terrain was lush with vegetation, the river water was running, and the animals grazed peacefully in the green fields.
The elementary students were crisply dressed in their beautiful school uniform, displayed manners and the environment was clean and fresh. Six miles up the hills we visited my wife’s elementary school, Sunning Hill, where Teacher Givans, her father, was the principal when she was a child, and they lived on the compound. I experienced seeing the nostalgia in her face as she videoed the place so she could show her 5 siblings and 6 cousins in the USA, who also lived in the community. I saw the euphoria when she greeted and hugged Tuts, a childhood friend who now taught at the school. The humble, simple, peaceful environment made me feel like moving to Sunning Hill, St. Thomas to continue our retirement. In Kingston I had the honor of presenting a check for US$35,000 or Ja$ 5.25 million to Calabar High School on behalf of the Florida Chapter of the Calabar Alumni Association.
This was done at a Founder’s Day function celebrating the schools 110 years of existence. This money will be used to address the school’s Health and Wellness Program by specifically providing meals for needy students. The next day we visited Calabar, driving through the impressive entrance to park and interact with some well-groomed, neatly dressed and articulate young men socializing in groups before entering the Chapel for an assembly. Ms. Jarrett, the guidance counselor seemed to be the most popular person as the boys all rallied for her attention. It was my time to be nostalgic.
Ms. Jarrett invited us to her office, and it was there she introduced us to a failing student who was about to be kicked out of school and his frustrated father who was trying to save him from being a part of the many dropouts on the streets. My wife and I, along with my friend Dr. Winston Newell, a dentist and old boy, became his mentors, as a weeping father expressed his gratitude. This is one student who will not become part of the statistics if we can help it.
Lastly, we drove a mile away to The Queens High School, which was my wife’s alma mater and were in awe to see the beautiful edifice that housed some beautifully dressed young ladies.
We were attracted to the well-manicured and maintained buildings and lawns as we were given a tour, and very impressed with the students as we randomly talked to some highly intelligent young ladies.
As an educator who spent over 25 years in the Miami-Dade County Public Schools System, I could not help but compare the students and the environment of my little island schools to those in Miami. Given the limited resources, the grave teacher shortage, and dire conditions from which our Jamaican students come, I lift my hat to the Administrators, Teachers, Students, and Parents in Jamaica. Your hard work and maximization of resources is noticeable, and you are to be commended for an awesome job. May God continue to Bless our island and the children who are our future.