Sun | Apr 30, 2017

Sidewalk granted to students

Published:Sunday | November 2, 2014 | 11:00 AM
Dr O'Neil Ankle indicates the busy roadway outside Jonathan Grant High School, St Catherine, while speaking to The Gleaner last year. - Photo by Anthony Minott
Dr O'Neil Ankle, principal of the Jonathan Grant High School in St Catherine.
Students at Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, St Catherine, walk along a newly-installed sidewalk on the exterior of the school plant.
Dr O'Neil Ankle (right), principal of the Jonathan Grant High School in St Catherine, converses with Abigail Phuran (in front of Ankle), president of the JAA Junior Club at the school, while other members of the club, Tracy Ann Hall (second left), automotive technology instructor and JAA Junior Club liaison teacher, and Anthony Johnson (third right), project officer with the JN Foundation, listen in. - Contributed
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When students at Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, St Catherine, started the 2014-2015 school year in September, there was a marked difference in their surroundings.

After persistent lobbying by principal Dr O'Neil Ankle; the institution's Parent-Teacher Association; and members of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) Junior Club, a sidewalk was built outside the school, providing students with a safer option than the roadway which they had to use before.

The new sidewalk extends from the rear to the front gate of the school and beyond the school compound towards the Spanish Town business district, covering an area traversed by the majority of students attending the institution.

Dr Ankle said that prior to the sidewalk being built, students were forced to use the roadway to access the school compound or when making their way to the Spanish Town city centre. "The Shift A students, 7-9, number 1,500. And when these students take to the road, they represent serious pedestrian traffic. They did not have a safe place to walk. I feared what would happen one day," he explained.

Last September, Automotives did a feature on the situation, with the headline 'Nowhere to walk'. Then, Dr Ankle chided the authorities for not providing the required funding to make a sidewalk. "They said they don't have any money, but if a motor vehicle hits six and kills six, you will see how fast they find the money. We are reactive, rather than proactive," Dr Ankle had emphasised.

Also of concern were errant minibus drivers who often raced along the roadway, despite the presence of students on the road. "Some students were knocked down in the past," Dr Ankle noted. Last year, he told Automotives. "The biggest problem is the minibus. The way they drive on the road is a joke. There are times when they are on the road and motorists have to be blowing their horns at them."

Student-drafted proposal

Tracy Ann Hall, automotive technology instructor and JAA Junior Club liaison teacher, assisted the Jonathan Grant students in drafting a document for the construction of the sidewalk, complete with a proposed design.

"We wrote the proposal with the aim to present it to the parish council, the Ministry of Education and the National Works Agency (NWA). The students included a design of their concept for the sidewalk," Hall said.

The JAA Junior Club, which was formed at the school a year ago, identified the construction of a sidewalk as one of its major projects, as the lack was cited as a major road-safety hazard.

"It means a lot to the students because they now recognise that they can influence change in their community and surroundings," Hall said "The project has empowered the students to assist in making changes in their community."

Collin McKenzie, treasurer and founding member of the JAA Junior Club at Jonathan Grant High, assisted his clubmates in preparing the proposal for the project and feels rewarded by the experience. "Working on the project was fun and I am pleased that our efforts have resulted in this kind of change for the entire school population," he said.

Dr Ankle has emphasised that since the construction of the sidewalk, "students have been educated about how to use it and to remain safe on the roadway to and from school".

Duane Ellis, general manager of the JAA, commended the Jonathan Grant High School JAA Junior Club members. "It is admirable as it embodies the main objective of the clubs, which is to get young people involved in road safety as stakeholders, who are also able to provide solutions," Ellis said.

"This project falls within the broader mandate of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, which seeks to improve road-user behaviour as part of its goal to halve global road-user deaths by 2020," he added.

Hall says the next phase of the sidewalk project will be beautification, as the JAA Club members will be asking the Forestry Department to assist them with adding plants along the sidewalk.