Hanover, Westmoreland schools ready but…

LITTLE LONDON, Westmoreland — Teacher resignation and furniture shortage top the list of major challenges faced by administrators in public schools in the western parishes of Hanover and Westmoreland as they prepare to welcome students for the new school term.

The Jamaica Observer canvassed four public and private schools at the early childhood, primary and secondary levels and despite some challenges, they said they are ready — for the most part.

Little London High School in Westmoreland appears to be the hardest hit by teacher resignation. Principal Garfield James said the school, which has a population of more than 800 students and 45 teachers on staff, is currently 10 teachers short.

“I can’t speak to all of them going overseas but some from the group have actually taken up offers overseas. Up until [Sunday] I received two resignations. There are some teachers who are abroad and I don’t know if all of them will be returning,” stated James.

Consistent water supply is also an issue. The school is supplied by the National Water Commission’s Bulstrode Treatment Plant in Grange Hill. However, the supply is prone to turbidity and rainfall over the past three weeks is having an impact on the system.

According to James, their only real challenge is that they do not have enough furniture.

“We really do need furniture; we are lacking in that area but we are working to remedy that situation. We are actually in the process of trying to acquire the number needed and I think we will have it in place in time for the new school term,” he said.

He was also confident that there should be no problems with the supply of uniforms — including the ‘bush jackets’ worn by the boys — and textbooks.

“We do have a textbook programme in place which is up and running. We rely on the [education] ministry to supply us with the requisite books that are utilised at the different grade levels,” said the principal. “We are encouraging parents to be ready to send their students out because we are ready at Little London High to receive them.”

Over at Risen Messiah Early Childhood Institution, a private school in Negril, Westmoreland, administrators are keeping a watchful eye on the number of students who enrol. If more than 60 show up in September, they will need to have more specialised chairs made. According to Principal Karen Ennis, most students have already enrolled.

They are likely having a challenge getting their physical education gear which, about two years ago, was selected as a more comfortable option to the standard school uniform. According to Ennis they are having issues with their supplier. There has also been a snag with textbooks. She noted that unlike previous years, there is no sponsor who will help defray some of the costs this year. This is compounded by the steep increase in the cost of the curriculum-based books, she said.

The school has managed to retain all five teachers. However, the physical infrastructure is in need of repair.

“You need financing for repairs and that is a bit of a challenge but I can’t complain too much. We don’t depend on the Government so we always seek other sources for my repairs,” stated Ennis.

“We are managing so far. We can’t do everything all at once but the important things such as preparing the classrooms, doors, ceiling, windows and painting, we can manage all of those,” she added, noting that work is almost complete.

In the neighbouring parish of Hanover, repairs are still underway at the 245-year-old Rusea’s High School — the fourth oldest secondary school in Jamaica. Rusea’s High is one of three secondary institutions islandwide to have two campuses that currently have a student population of more than 1,800. Because of issues related to the procurement process, work will not be completed in time for the new term. Principal Donna Anderson said they may resort to using a mixed modality. This would see students at campus two moving from face-to-face to online classes when additional work begins on the buildings.

Compared to Rusea’s High’s loss of four teachers who have resigned and no indication that they have left for jobs overseas, Church Hill Primary School has lost one teacher who intends to migrate. The school is located in the rural community of Santoy, Hanover. Principal Delano Murdock was quick to point out that there had been no challenge filling the vacancy. There are no issues with furniture, uniforms or textbooks but there is a concern about transportation for its 150 students. Most of them rely on bike taxis to get to school and they are at the mercy of the weather.

Murdock explained that a section of the route students travel to school is flooded whenever it rains. He is hoping plans by councillor for the Green Island Division, Marvell Sewell (People’s National Party), to have the issue addressed will be implemented.

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