Teachers defend the dignity of their charges
Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
They may not know proper table manners, and saying "excuse me" when they want to interrupt a conversation may also be foreign to them, but these students are not second-class citizens. At least not to the teachers at Denham Town Primary School.
Often deprived of schooldays due to violence or other issues, these students are learning in a difficult environment, and their success is the greatest level of satisfaction for the teachers.
"You can't imagine how much satisfaction you get when you get a hug of thanks from a child you have helped," said Venus Scott-Harrison, principal of the school.
"If I were teaching at a school with no issues, I suppose teaching would be so bland. But here, you feel more appreciated because you can see when your efforts have done some good," added Scott-Harrison.
Pigeonholed by gun violence and other social issues, the school provides various activities for these children to see another side of life.
According to the teachers, the lives of many of the children revolve around home and school, with some going to church and not much else.
"Parents go to places where they cannot take the children. It's not that the parents don't go anywhere. It's the children who don't go anywhere," said Scott-Harrison.
To help address this, the school usually plans an annual guided tour of the Corporate Area, which culminates in movie day at Carib Theatre.
This year, the children will again go on the tour, culminating with movies at the Sovereign Centre in Liguanea, St Andrew.
Swimming classes, organised by the guidance and counselling department, should have started last week, but was pushed back until this week.
The school boasts a computer lab with 23 computers, and specialist teacher Kevin Watson also teaches computer classes to adults every Wednesday.
"Parents learn how to access the World Wide Web and another world of knowledge," Watson told The Sunday Gleaner.
Last Wednesday, several parents, mostly women, were seen making their way to the school for classes. The computer lab is sponsored by the Jamaica Public Service Company at no cost to the school.
Internet service is provided by telecoms provider LIME, also at no cost.
NEED SCIENCE TEACHER
The school's science lab, though well equipped, is without a teacher since the only specialist science teacher retired.
She was one of the casualties of the Ministry of Education's recently introduced retirement programme, which mandates that teachers are sent home once they get to the retirement age.
Children sitting the secondary-school placement examination, the Grade Six Achievement Test, next March are likely to feel the loss more, but the school is still try to cope.
And coping is what they do at the school's gym operated by Francis King, otherwise called 'Wall-eye'.
It's a place to de-stress for teachers and community members. The gym is not air-conditioned and there are no fancy membership perks, but it is important for the school community.
"It is where you go and relieve yourself of some of the stresses of daily life," said Janet Williams.
Wall-eye said he bought some of the equipment second-hand but there were some new pieces. At least 23 persons can be accommodated at one time, doing various activities.
The former promising footballer said the violence in the area ended his career.
"There was nobody to play with," lamented Wall-eye.
At 58, he uses the gym to cope, and help others cope.