Tue | Nov 21, 2017

St Albans Primary barely surviving in the zone

Published:Saturday | October 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
Built to accommodate more than 800 students, currently enrolled are 161 students and a staff compliment of eight teachers and a guidance counsellor at St Albans Primary School in Denham Town, west Kingston.
As operations continue in Denham Town, west Kingston, the joint police/military command remains vigilant in the execution of their duties.
Members of the security forces assigned to the zone of special operation carry out a search in Denham Town, west Kingston yesterday.
Members of the security forces in Denham Town, west Kingston during ZOSO operations.
Police assigned to the zone of special operations check identification documents at a checkpoint in Denham Town, west Kingston.
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In a community that has police and military joint command checkpoints at every possible point of entry and smack in the middle of Denham Town, site of the latest zone of special operation (ZOSO), is the St Albans Primary School in west Kingston.

Built to accommodate more than 800 students, currently enrolled are 161 students and a staff complement of eight teachers and a guidance counsellor.

Many of the students at St Albans are no stranger to the violence that has made it possible for their community to bear the ZOSO tag, The Gleaner was told.

However, since Denham Town was designated the country's second ZOSO nearly two weeks ago, it has been experiencing a certain calm and peace, which has resulted in more students coming out to classes.

Before the ZOSO was announced, many students were kept away from the area because of marauding gunmen, whose ensuing chaos would certainly interrupt classes at the institution, one resident said.

"I realise there is an increase in the attendance of students from the start of the ZOSO, but it was telling that we still managed to have our parent-teacher association (PTA) meeting even though there was a decline in the numbers of parents coming out," an official from the school said.

Requesting anonymity, the official also noted that before the ZOSO designation, an average of 70 parents or guardians (men included) would attend PTA meetings. However, that number has dwindled dramatically, with less than half turning out for the last meeting held on Wednesday.

"And that is not so strange when you know the mentality of the people who live in these communities, especially the men, who stayed away completely from the last PTA meeting because of what I theorise to be their fear of the security forces," the official said.

 

Attendance declined before ZOSO

 

The source said, however, that the declining attendance existed before the area was declared a ZOSO. In fact, this has been the case since the 2010 incursion by the security forces in their hunt to capture strongman Christopher 'Dudus' Coke in the neighbouring community of Tivoli Gardens.

"About then, we had approximately 400 students, but it has got worse in terms of attendance as violence would flare up anywhere and at anytime with the wanton shoot-outs and killings around the community," stated the official.

"It is unfortunate that our children have become so excited about such gross and inhumane occurrences, but we still have a few coming out, and as long as they are coming, we have a job as teachers to teach and protect them."

... Two weeks, one gun found in ZOSO controlled Denham Town

As operations continue in Denham Town, west Kingston, the joint police-military command will remain vigilant in the execution of its duties, the spokesperson for zone of special operations (ZOSO), Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, has said, a day after one illegal shotgun and a cartridge were found buried in a yard in the community.

"It's a very slow process, and we expected no less as gunmen would not have given up their weapons just like that. They are going to hide them, and that was how we found the weapon yesterday, buried almost three feet in the ground," Lindsay stated.

The presence of 12 gangs operating in Denham Town precipitated the National Security Council naming the community a ZOSO.

In the meantime, Lindsay said that the joint command would continue the work, noting that it would take time and effort to be completed.

"This is a very difficult terrain, and these gunmen would have been ingenious in how they hide those guns. But we are up to the task and will continue doing what we must to rid the community of illegal weapons and wanted men," she said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com