Wed | Dec 7, 2016

FirstCarib responds to Tacky High's needs

Published:Saturday | October 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Orantes Moore, Gleaner Writer

Five months after fire destroyed an entire block at Tacky High School in St Mary, staff and students are still waiting for the Ministry of Education (MOE) to arrange for the electricity supply to be reconnected, according to acting principal, Jefferton Meek.

Speaking last week, as he accepted a donation from staff at the local branch of FirstCaribbean International Bank (FCIB), Meek revealed that pupils and colleagues had faced many obstacles since returning for the start of the new school year.

He told Rural Xpress: "We have had a lot of challenges. First and foremost, there is no electricity in the majority of the school.

"We have temporarily placed electricity in the administration area, but in terms of technical departments such as woodwork, electrical, food and nutrition, home economics, and the electronic document preparation and management, e-learning and computer labs, there is no electricity.

"This severely affects preparation for the CSEC exams because students who have to do school-based assessments are unable to enter the labs. The MOE promised that we'll get electricity, but we are a month into the new school year and there is no sign of that."

Meek noted that the FCIB's donation of a new stove valued at $300,000 was greatly appreciated since the fire had demolished the school's canteen, which caused a significant drop in attendance.

He explained: "At present, we are unable to provide cooked lunches for our students, so we are extremely happy and grateful for this gift. We have a population of almost 1,200 students and more than 750 of them are on the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH).

"However, since September, attendance has fallen to a maximum of 915 students, which tells us the absence of cooked meals is affecting our daily attendance."

Manager of the FCIB in Ocho Rios, Lorna Escoffery, added: "We made this donation because when we heard about the fire, we were disturbed and troubled and thought that as a responsible corporate entity, we had to step in to assist the school, specifically with a stove.

"There are children at risk here so we want to do whatever we can to help and make a positive impact on the students and community."

Responding to Meek's comments, Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites said: "I regret the electricity supply at Tacky High has not been fully restored. Immediate steps will be taken to put an emergency supply in place and I'm in touch with the Jamaica Public Service Company to that end."

He added: "Apparently, the authorities in the educational region were waiting for the reconstruction of the burnt-out facilities in order to be able to complete the electrical work. My own view is that we have to make interim arrangements and I will see to it that is attempted."

Police say the investigations into the suspected arson and the murder of the school's security guard, Hewit Jarrett, who survived the blaze, but was killed by gunman two months later, are still ongoing.

rural@gleanerjm.com