Teachers grieving too

MAY PEN, Clarendon — Fully aware that June 21, the one-year anniversary of the horrendous Cocoa Piece murders, will be a challenging day for teachers and staff at Beulah All-Age & Infant School which lost two students, a local businessman has moved to brighten their lives.

On May 25, a little more than a month before tears will likely flow once again as the lives tragically lost are remembered, Junior Wilson treated all 18 teachers and two ancillary staff to an evening of fine dining at the newly opened restaurant, The Yard.

“That was a really traumatic period and news of the deaths shake up the entire nation. The family [members] weren’t the only ones grieving but the teachers too; and so treating them in a manner such as this to ease their mind was an easy decision,” Wilson told the Jamaica Observer.

The school’s principal, Nadine Hay-Little, said staff members truly appreciated the “wonderful treat”.

“To be out of the school setting is a change in many ways and we welcome this change, considering what we have been going through this past year,” she said.

She gave the Observer an idea of what they have planned to honour the memories of the lives lost.

“As a school we are planning a brief memorial service and we have plans to include the family. Just recently Kishawn Henry, the father of the youngest child, visited us while he was on a break from work. We had a long conversation about what happened and I can tell you that the healing process is ongoing. So something like this [treat for teachers] is a lovely gesture and is very thoughtful,” said Hay-Little.

The school’s vice-principal, Nadine McFarlane, was similarly moved.

“This is a beautiful initiative, it is well appreciated and we were anticipating coming out from the moment we heard about it. The ambience is lovely and to be out with our co-workers like this to take our minds off school and the tragedy that happened last year, is really a big break for us,” she said during the dinner.

For Wilson, bringing a smile to all their faces was well worth it.

“We know the tremendous job that our teachers are doing that it is not appreciated by many. We know the struggles they have been going through recently so this was the perfect opportunity to treat them. It’s just a win-win. I feel so good about it and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to do this for them. I couldn’t be a teacher, so hats off to them, we salute them. Things have gotten worse in some ways, especially since the pandemic so I feel so good to do this,” he said.

Honouring the educators is also a new way for him to keep alive the memory of his mother who died 31 year ago, the businessman explained.

“I’ve worked with the James and Friends Education Programme for a number of years. For the last couple of years we have tried to reach out to persons in different ways and so when James suggested that we change it up since we are approaching the first anniversary of the deaths of the children and with Teachers’ Day and Mother’s day still fresh in our minds, I thought what better way to join the three things than to come out and celebrate these wonderful women in honour of my mother,” said Wilson.

Kimesha Wright and her children — 15-year-old Kimanda Smith, 12-year-old Sharalee Smith, five-year-old Rafaella Smith and 23-month-old Kishawn Henry Jr — were discovered inside their Cocoa Piece home in Clarendon. They had chop wounds and their throats were slashed. Sharalee and Rafaella both attended Beulah All-Age & Infant School.