Mon | May 20, 2019

Salute to a teacher - Model educator Solomon Scott undaunted by polio, kidney disease

Published:Wednesday | May 8, 2019 | 12:27 AMJason Cross/Gleaner Writer
Solomon Scott inspects the work of his student, Jhavian Morgan, looking for imperfections in the wood after sanding, one of many steps in the finishing process. Scott teaches furniture making to intellectually disabled students, an occupation he has undertaken for the past 14 years. Currently, Solomon suffers from kidney failure but remains positive and continues to educate and impart knowledge to his students at the Abilities Foundation, located on Constant Spring Road.
Solomon Scott guides his student, Rayquan Ferron, through the process of cutting wood using a tablesaw at the Abilities Foundation last Friday.
Solomon Scott teaches furniture making to intellectually disabled students at the Abilities Foundation located on Constant Spring Road in St Andrew.
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Even though he has polio and, since 2017, kidney disease, 60-year-old teacher Solomon Scott has never harboured the slightest thought of giving up on life or resorting to depend on people for his survival.

Those traits have earned him the admiration of many, and today, Teachers’ Day, he will be honoured by the Abilities Foundation, where he has taught the art of furniture making to intellectually challenged students for the past 14 years.

“I became a victim of polio from my first year in primary school. Right now, I am suffering from kidney disease. Doctors say high blood pressure caused the kidneys to fail,” Scott told The Gleaner yesterday.

“The day before primary school, they used one needle to give the whole school polio vaccination. The following morning, I couldn’t go to school,” he recounted.

Since then, he has been getting treatment at the Spanish Town Hospital in St Catherine and the Sir John Golding Rehabilitation Centre in Mona, St Andrew.

Wheelchair for comfort

“Come 2017, this kidney thing arose and put me in a wheelchair. I’m not bound to it, but I use it for comfort and because I don’t want to keel over. The issue right now is with the kidney disease because the polio doesn’t affect me so much,” Scott said.

Both conditions could have daunted anybody, but not Scott, who never misses a day from school unless absolutely ill.

“I don’t like to be late either,” he told The Gleaner.

The teacher says that his experience in his younger days growing up on a sugar estate in Worthy Park, St Catherine, has provided extra motivation for him to work with the intellectually challenged.

“Most of who I grew up around could not read or [could] barely write their names, but they are some of the most skilled people I know. There was this mechanic who couldn’t read. Every engineer who visited the estate had to consult with him, and I used to wonder how that was possible. I brought that in mind when coming here,” he explained.

“You don’t have to be a reading person to do certain skills. Working with the intellectually challenged, teaching them to make beds and craft items, you have to understand them. It’s not hard, because I don’t give up on people easily.”

Scott revealed, however, that his illnesses have presented him with a significant challenge. His situation is compounded by his commitment to helping his family financially, despite his own needs.

He explained that he has used up all his savings to facilitate dialysis treatment, which costs $11,500 for a four-hour pack, and he is required to purchase two per week and would welcome assistance from the public.

“I can only afford one, and I try to do the second. I have a wife, a daughter and three grandchildren and I have to help with school and food and it makes things harder. I must say, though, that people have been really good to me,” Scott said.

Susan Hamilton, director of the Abilities Foundation, corroborating Scott’s claim of always being punctual and rarely absent, adding that he is a model teacher for the institution and the wider Jamaica.

“He is one of the best teachers in furniture making on the island, and for that, we will be honouring him,” she said.

jason.cross@gleanerjm.com