Thu | Jan 18, 2018

Cruel closure - More than 80 children left hanging as homework centre is shuttered in Montego Bay

Published:Sunday | April 16, 2017 | 12:00 AMOkoye Henry
Staff, students and well-wishers at the Le Antonio’s Foundation’s Homework and Development Centre in Montego Bay, St James.
Volunteers and students at the Le Antonio’s Foundation’s Homework and Development Centre in Montego Bay, St James.

An oasis for underperforming students in Montego Bay, St James, has closed its doors, leaving several residents of the violence-pressured parish concerned.

The Le Antonio's Foundation's Homework and Development Centre, which has helped with the educational development of children from the troubled communities around Montego Bay for years, is now shuttered but the operator, Antonio McKoy, is hoping that it will reopen some time soon.

McKoy, president and founder of the homework centre, told The Sunday Gleaner that he had no choice but to close the operation because the owner of the building where it operated indicated that he needed the space.

McKoy said with the Barnett Street premises no longer available he made attempts to find another location but was unsuccessful.


Big blow


According to McKoy, he was left with no choice but to discontinue his three-year-old initiative of providing free educational assistance to more than 80 registered youngsters from inner-city communities throughout the parish.

"It is going to be a big blow because the homework centre plays an effective and comprehensive role in terms of programmes offered to students from the community," said McKoy, who remains hopeful that another location will be found.

"If anybody can provide us with a location here in Montego Bay it would be a great help to us," said McKoy.

"We have our resources like chairs, tables, books and will provide volunteers, but we need someone who is willing to donate their space."

The homework centre, with its team of volunteers, played a major role in tutoring students at the basic, primary and secondary levels.

Students were given free extra lessons in subjects such as mathematics, English, reading and art, among other academic disciplines. In addition, the students were exposed to lessons in information technology and taught positive behavioural practices.

"Another significant aspect of the centre was that sometimes the kids come hungry and we buy them snacks and juices while they are here. So it was not only about learning, but also caring," said McKoy, who is also the chairman for the ambitious End Bullying Global Campaign.


Saddened by changes


One student ambassador and a former beneficiary of the centre, Chuckeisha Murray, told The Sunday Gleaner that she was saddened by the turn of event, knowing the critical role the centre was playing in helping students, especially slow learners, who were provided with specialised attention.

"These students usually get time for one-on-one lessons with teachers who find out their weaknesses and helped them to overcome it," said Murray, who is a student at Montego Bay High School.

"I was one of the persons who were volunteering their time at the centre, and it was something I enjoyed doing."

McKoy said the idea of starting the homework centre came after he became uncomfortable with the large number of children he would see loitering on the streets outside his construction office on a daily basis.

Recognising that the time that was being wasted by the students could be put to productive use, he decided on establishing a homework centre.

Using his resources, McKoy acquired an office space that became available, furnished it, and that was where the Le Antonio's Foundation's Homework and Development Centre came to life.

With the number of students increasing and the demand for assistance becoming more pronounced, the Hanover Charities came on board to assist alongside the various persons who volunteer their services.

"We want the centre back up and running and we are confident that it will happen ... we are just hoping that the good people in Montego Bay will come to our assistance," said McKoy.