Mon | Apr 23, 2018

'Nothing wrong with Arnett Gardens'

Published:Monday | October 6, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Tajay Kerr (left) and colleagues inside Arnett Gardens recently. Gladstone Taylor/Photographer

Students shun secondary schools in Arnett Gardens. Residents argue that the area is safe for students

Taken aback by the refusal of some parents to have their children educated at schools in their community, residents of Arnett Gardens in South St Andrew insist that the area is nothing like it was in the 1980s when gun violence was the order of the day.

Administrators of the Trench Town High School aTaken aback by the refusal of some parents to have their children
educated at schools in their community, residents of Arnett Gardens in
South St Andrew insist that the area is nothing like it was in the 1980s
when gun violence was the order of the day.nd the Charlie Smith High School believe the development of their institutions has been hampered by the reluctance of parents to send their children into the community, which has been the scene of violent incidents over the years.

At the latest check Trench Town had just about half of the 1,000 students it can accommodate while Charlie Smith, which was built to house 1,200 students, had only 530 enrolled.

Unwarranted fear

But the residents feel this fear of the community which is causing parents to seek transfers for the students placed at the two schools is unwarranted.

"As a youth growing up in the community, it has developed," said 21-year-old barber Tajay Kerr who was among a group of young men seated at the entrance of the area when a Gleaner team visited last Tuesday.

"But I can see why a lot of people don't want to come to these schools, because back in the days you couldn't even pass Cross Roads and come down here and your phone don't even get tek weh, and you hear that man a dead everyday," added Kerr.

The residents asserted that their community was no different from others in Jamaica and believe that the schools have managed to produce well-rounded students despite the stigmatisation.

"Nothing don't do the community, because every school you go to, you have the good, bad and indifferent," insisted Patrick Peart as he walked just outside the Trench Town High School.

His walking companion Cynthia Richards was irked too about the negative comments often made about the area.

"Everywhere now is violent; look at the rural areas them," she declared.

"It's not only the community them that they call garrison or ghetto that things tend to happen, it also happens in the upper class," she said.

Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer

In making reference to entertainer Adidja 'Vybz Kartel' Palmer who had attended the Calabar High School and is now serving time in prison for murder, Richards declared that children at traditional high schools are also at risk of becoming delinquents.

"The community itself has nothing to do with anything. The child decides to come and get his education and focus on what he or she come to school for and that is it."

"Coming to Trench Town School shouldn't be an issue, because children come from Trench Town School and today you can't tell that they went to Trench Town School to the position that they hold in the workplace."

While in agreement that the community has experienced a major transformation in recent times, Ernie Green understands the concerns being expressed by some parents. He believes the schools are situated near too many open lots, which make them appear isolated.

"It doesn't look like somewhere that someone would want to go," he said.

Apart from the open lots, large piles of garbage in areas near the schools and the lack of pedestrian crossings do nothing to convince visitors to the area that there were schools nearby.

"If I had my children and I start to observe, I would say too that this don't look like a safe environment," said Green.

He further argued that the unwillingness of some businesses to employ children from inner-city-based schools was also one of the factors that causes parents to favour traditional high schools in more upscale areas.

"If you realise that when you send your child to Campion and when they leave Campion they get a job and you see them go Trench Town and come sit down on corner, what would you do?" he asked.