Great feeling

of joy and relief greeted the reopening of Balcombe Drive Primary and Junior High School in Waterhouse, St Andrew, on Monday, five days after deadly gang violence forced administrators to send students home and suspend classes.

Head Boy Zhayquan Thorpe and his sister Zhariana Thorpe were among the more vocal residents who not only expressed pleasure at the resumption of classes, but displayed frustration at the violence that had claimed six lives and resulted in the community being placed under a curfew.

“Last week Wednesday I was well dressed for orientation. As I stepped out of the yard and nearly reached school, everybody a turn back seh it cancel because people get shoot up and dead. I was coming to school looking fresh and I was excited,” said Zhayquan, who celebrated his 11th birthday Monday.

“I was angry seh as mi step out mi haffi go back een. When I went back home, I took off my uniform and went on the bed and screamed into the pillow. I told myself that when school start back I am going to try and make sure that I do nothing wrong because I want to go to Campion College. I wish the gunmen will change their life,” he said.

His sister Zhariana, who is in grade four, told the Jamaica Observer that she kicked the air and, like her brother, had screamed into a pillow in anger last Wednesday.

“After that I fell asleep. When I woke up I told myself that when school starts back I am going to try my best so that my mother, father, and grandmother who spent all their money on me, can be happy,” she said.

Parents were exuberant as they watched their children settle into classrooms.

One mother lamented that the uncertainty about when school would have reopened did not rest well with her.

“Last week when dem seh school a go lock back mi seh ‘Jesus peas, mi spend so much money and mi son nah go get fi go a school. Remember that nothing nah really gwaan financially and you spend the one money you have. Mi glad seh this morning when mi come out things are right,” she told the Observer.

Two other mothers expressed appreciation to the school’s administrators for reopening the institution despite the unstable environment.

“Some of us as adults nuh have no education, so we need the children to get it. Once the youths nah come school dem nah go have no education. Sitting down at home, we alone cannot help them. We need the teacher dem fi help dem and teach them a lot of things. We feel great this morning,” one mother said.

Another mother said, “We can’t mek certain things blight dem future. The police are here to protect them, so I feel good. Mi woulda feel bad if school lock back, enuh.”

During a special devotion marked by singing, prayers, a pep talk by the police, and the distribution of cake and drinks, Acting Principal Yvette Foster told the Observer she was so happy that she felt like “a proud mother who just gave birth”.

“Based on the spate of violence that the community experienced, some parents were still timid to come out. That is why we have this little thing to welcome them back and to show them that school start and we are ready for them. I am really excited,” she said.

“We were at a place where persons gave up on us. People opted to put the children at other schools. They said ‘nutten nah gwaan’, so we are here to show them that something is going on. We start small, but by next week we are going to get more and more children. That is our aim for the institution because this is a lovely institution,” Foster said.

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