Haddo Primary needs help to build bathroom facilities
Haddo Primary and Infant School is situated about 10 miles northeast of Savanna-la-Mar in Westmoreland. In 2013, the school celebrated its 100th anniversary and a few past students, locally and abroad, decided to form a Past Students' Association (PSA) to mark the occasion.
After consultations with the principal, Shelley McGregor, a unanimous decision was taken by the newly formed PSA to build a decent bathroom facility to accommodate both the infant and primary students, as the current lavatory is inappropriate and unsafe for use.
A fundraising appeal was made, a concert was held and funding was sourced from missionaries abroad willing to donate money as well as hands-on labour. Local tradesmen also volunteered and a groundbreaking date was set with the intention to have the washrooms ready for the new school year in September 2013. However, those plans came to a halt one week before construction was scheduled to begin as the requisite building permit could not be secured due to land ownership issues. "The disappointment and frustration was difficult to comprehend. As a short-term solution, we purchased and delivered to the infant department denim dresses, khaki pants, polo shirts, socks and underwear, wet wipes, latex gloves, bath soaps and hand sanitisers," Elcho Stewart, a member of the PSA who is spearheading the project, told Rural Xpress.
She added: "My personal interest goes beyond the contribution for the centenary. I attended Haddo School as a child, and back in those days, pit latrines were the convenience used in schools and at every home. As an all-age school then, all children used the same toilet facilities and much questionable activities took place away from the watchful eyes of teachers and staff. Distracted children have accidents and unwashed hands and fruits contaminated lunches and caused many children to fall ill," she explained to Rural Xpress.
As a result, Stewart said there is great urgency to install the washrooms because children as young as three years old are forced to share the pit latrines out of the sight of their teachers with more mature 11- and 12-year-old students. "In some instances, they are subject to bullying and much more, and a child who is bullied, molested or inappropriately touched could suffer from the effects for life."
A GoFundMe account has been set up to raise US$6,000 to retrofit two existing classrooms, which will be converted into bathrooms fit for children. "Funds will also be used to purchase toiletries and other items such as clothing, socks and underwear, since the little ones have accidents at times."
"The responses so far from past students have been curiously slow, but I am still encouraged. Without the past students and residents of Haddo, Line Gate, Lindos Hill, McField and other nearby districts, it will be a tough target to reach. We are also counting on them to volunteer their time and trade skills to lower costs," said the Canada-based businesswoman and philanthropist, who has spearheaded several other projects in western Jamaica.
The target date to begin construction is June this year, at the beginning of the summer holidays, to be ready for use for the new school term.
"It behoves me to think that a school with a rich history and generations of past students, including politicians, professors, teachers, independent and corporate business people, senior civil servants, several police officers, an assistant police commissioner and many others, should still have such a basic need. It seems so much more in vogue to assist our post-elementary institutions of learning, but it is the primary schools that set the foundation for us to grow and achieve. They deserve better recognition and support," Stewart lamented.