Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
MOUNT ROSSER, St Catherine:
ADMINISTRATORS AT Mount Rosser Primary and Infant School in North West St Catherine have had much to celebrate, particularly in the areas of sports and academics.
However, on the other hand, the institution, which was relocated from the Mount Rosser Methodist Church to its present site 50 years ago, has been struggling to provide modern sanitary facilities for the students.
"The children's toilet is in a deplorable condition," bemoaned acting principal Rona Fuller.
Besides, she told The Gleaner, the antiquated pit latrine facilities have been having a negative impact on the multigrade school, which can accommodate up to 220 students, but only had 127 on roll last academic year.
"The children use pit latrines, and that's one of the reasons we don't have more students coming to this school," she reasoned.
In fact, completing construction of modern sanitary facilities is a critical part of preparation to ensure that the 2012-2013 school year gets off to a smooth start, but that has hit a brick wall.
"We are working assiduously to ensure that the new toilet facility is finished for September, but we really need help. That's the pressing matter right now as we prepare for the new school year," said Fuller, while showing our news team pictures of volunteers working on the facilities on Labour Day.
Under the watchful eyes of former principal Collington Powell, the past students' association took the initiative two years ago to build proper toilet facilities for the students.
"We started with a block drive, we also got some money from past students, and Rio Tinto Limited has helped us a lot," explained Carlene Francis, president of the past students' association.
The parent-teacher association (PTA) and the Mount Rosser community have also thrown their support behind the project.
"We have contributed sand and cement, but our main contribution is labour," said Sandra Tomlinson, PTA president.
But even as an appreciative Fuller explained that work done so far was free of cost and listed donations received, she pleaded for more assistance to complete the project.
STILL SOME WAY TO GO
"We have not paid any money to work on the building so far. It's been all voluntary. We have planned another workday for some time in August, but we need other things to continue and complete the project," she said.
Fuller added: "We need five pull-chain toilets and one regular toilet, a face basin, a 650-gallon storage tank, a septic tank, a communal urinal, pipe and pipe fittings, cement, a manhole cover and paint. We really need assistance and would welcome this from anyone or any company."
Notably, the students are not the only ones who have challenges with bathroom facilities.
"The teachers have to go through the grade-three classroom to use their bathroom and it's so embarrassing. Sometimes if a teacher is in the toilet and another one is going, the children would say, 'But, Miss, somebody is in there'. So everybody knows that you are going to the bathroom," she remarked.
However, the acting principal said plans are in the pipeline to correct the situation.
"We plan to cut a door … but funding is the problem," she said. "We also have the space to convert into a bathroom for the principal. Right now, I've received a toilet and a basin from a community member for the principal's bathroom, so we need help to install those," she said.
Even as completing the sanitary facilities for the students remains top priority, Fuller highlighted the need to erect a perimeter fence to keep out animals which continue to destroy the plants.
Again, the challenge is funding. Though she did not disclose the amount of money the school receives from the Ministry of Education each year, she said, "We try to manage as best as possible, and we do fund-raising activities to subsidise."