Sheldon Williams, Sunday Gleaner Writer
As many of the students who attend Grove Primary, St Andrew, arrive at school in taxis from Papine, they have to cross Gordon Town Road to get to school.
Principal Suzette South, explained the perils involved - and an incident three years ago which led to Douglas 'Dougie' Duncan being asked to get children across the road safely.
"The vehicles, they tend to come very fast around the corners, despite them seeing the school-zone sign," she reasoned. Notably, she pointed out that it was at her insistence that a traffic warden was put in place, following an accident along the Gordon Town Road involving one of her students, who narrowly escaped serious injury after he was hit by a taxi.She said that in February 2009, a student was making his way across the road when the taxi came speeding around a blind corner and hit the boy on the legs, the driver managing to brake quickly to avert a possible fatality.
Need for warden
However, out of near tragedy emerged an act of kindness as Smith pointed out, "The taxi driver, after stopping, came out and actually took him across the road. Leaving nothing to chance, the boy was eventually transported to hospital for a thorough check-up to ensure that he was alright."
She recalled that the boy was "more frightened than anything else, but I was teary-eyed".
Managing to put a smile on her face after the flashback, Smith said, "With that, I said, 'Lord, you cannot be too careful'. Duncan was assigned the next day."
So, at first thought, a traffic warden assigned to a school zone might not spark much interest, or hold prolonged attention, because some may consider it a norm, or a requirement even. However, for students attending Grove Primary, Douglas Duncan (more affectionately known as 'Dougie') deserves recognition as he performs additional functions.
Immaculately attired in a bright-orange safety vest to ensure that he is seen from afar, on weekday mornings when school is in session, Dougie stands patiently in a corner across the pedestrians-only entrance to Gordon Town Primary. He stands only a few feet away from the school's entry point, on the other side of the roadway. From as early as 7:15 a.m. until 8:20 a.m., he awaits the arrival of students by public transport, especially taxis travelling from Papine and adjoining communities.
At first glance, Dougie may seem unassuming as he stands taciturn, upright and alert like a sentry. Although a man of little words, Dougie has proven, time and time again, that his non-dependence on dialogue is by no means a shortcoming in executing his crucial role.
As he hoists his right hand into the air, vehicles travelling in both directions come to an almost-immediate standstill, allowing children to cross at his gesture.
Automotives was impressed by Dougie's traffic signals and motions, and noted the respect that he commands from motorists as well as the admiration he receives from the little ones. Attending to the tedious task at hand, his eyes fluttering , Dougie still offered some insight into the life of the man who wears a reflective orange vest and has the lives of many of Grove Primary's 340 students in his expressive hands.
Neatly attired in a short-sleeved sky blue dress shirt and brown denim pants, Dougie outlined a typical day as the school's warden. Explaining how he grew into performing his duties so professionally, he said, "sometimes, I watch the police ... . It's common sense and observation of police personnel".
Dougie displayed how he has established an impressive reputation for himself, so much so that taxi drivers who transport children to the school decelerate as soon as they see him and stop their vehicles beside him so that he may easily assist the students to cross the roadway.
As taxi after taxi stopped, Dougie would open the door, assist the children to alight and escort them across the roadway, making the procedure seem like second nature. Dougie has grown attached to and developed a high level of responsibility for the students over the years, knowing many by name. "I know some of them by name - and, if not by name, certainly by face," Dougie joked.
Interestingly, he outlined that he is not a trained warden, but is actually employed as the school's watchman and performs the dual roles. He also proudly emphasised that since he has been carrying out his traffic-warden duties for the past three years, he has never once been absent, nor has he ever been late.
Principal South confirms his enviable attendance and punctuality record.
"He (Dougie) goes out there, religiously, every morning," South said.
According to South, she visited the office of the National Works Agency shortly after the incident, which led to Douglas' appointment and proposed that a pedestrian crossing be established for the school. However, that request was not met because of the blind corners on that section of the Gordon Town Road.
The denial of the crossing facility further motivated Smith to establish the safety precaution on her own, asking Dougie to act as a warden on a permanent basis after his temporary posting.
Dougie pleads with motorists on Gordon Town Road to slow down.
"Next time when you see me on the road, please, just slow down. I am crossing children," Dougie said.