Mon | May 17, 2021

Elletson Primary gives care packages to needy students

Published:Saturday | March 20, 2021 | 12:18 AMChristopher Serju/Senior Gleaner Writer
Francene Kelly (right), caregiver of Samara Davy (left), could not hold back the tears after expressing gratitude for the care package she received yesterday from the past students of the Elletson Primary and Infant School in Kingston. Care packages were g
Francene Kelly (right), caregiver of Samara Davy (left), could not hold back the tears after expressing gratitude for the care package she received yesterday from the past students of the Elletson Primary and Infant School in Kingston. Care packages were given to needy students and their families at a ceremony at the institution.

The distribution of care packages to 30 families of students of the Elletson Primary and Infant School on Friday will make a big difference in their lives. However, there are another 20 families which the school identified as being in desperate need of help but who will have to wait their turn, whenever further assistance is forthcoming.

The outreach assistance initiative funded by past students from Canada, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and those living here, was a well-needed give back by people who attended the school located in a gritty inner-city community at 1 Bryden Street, downtown Kingston. The well-needed assistance started coming in after one caring teacher, Principal Debbie Meek sought support for the dispossessed families.

Grade six teacher Karen Gowie-Williams had detected some unsettling behaviour among her students while conducting online classes and brought this to the attention of the principal.

Hungry students

“One of my teachers said to me one day, ‘Miss, we need to help our children’. A lot of the children when it is break or lunchtime and I say to them, go for lunch, go for break, they say ‘Miss we have nothing to eat’ and that touched me. That really touched me, cause I know that big me when me hungry, me can’t do any work much less these children. So I said okay, I will see how we can get some assistance and God is good, He always provides,” Meek told The Gleaner.

“I said Father God, I need the help. Who are we going to turn to? And in the midst of that we got a call from someone who is a member of the past students association and he introduced himself and said, ‘How can we help?’”

She said that initially the past students wanted to help by donating electronic devices to facilitate the take-up of online classes by more students. However, the principal advised that the students had a more urgent need. The past student enquired what she meant. “I said to him before we go to the devices stage, let us look at how we can give them some care packages – food items, toiletries, that sort of thing because as I relate to our children, we need to stop a gap.”

Admitting it took longer than expected for everything to come together, on Tuesday Meek got a phone call that the packages would be ready and prepared for delivery by Thursday. The packages were handed over yesterday to the parents of the students.

Principal says her school in dire need of assistance

Despite the well-appreciated goodwill gesture from past students, principal of Elletson Primary and Infant School Debbie Meek admitted yesterday that the institution was struggling to meet the Ministry of Health & Wellness’ requirements for face-to-face classes for grade six students sitting the Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams.

Like other primary schools, Elletson Primary is seeking clearance from the ministry to resume face-to-face classes for its grade six students in order to better prepare them for the PEP exams.

The audit requirements by the public health team have left the school administration devastated as they are unable to even begin to address the stipulations of the ministry, in order to resume classes for grade six students.

“Right now, a number of grade six students are on face-to-face, but Elletson is not so blessed as yet. We had our first inspection by the Ministry of Health & Wellness and there are some issues that we need to fix, that we are trying to fix but we are short on funds. The CHASE Fund was here this morning (Friday) and we don’t know how much they will be able to help us but I am now into the practice where I have to be reaching out, writing letters, asking for assistance because our children have been out of school for an entire year and it is not good for them,” she said.

Many challenges

Striking a balance between the school requirements and the children’s needs was proving to be an insurmountable challenge for the institution, Meek said. The prohibitive cost of doing a pest control exercise as dictated by the health ministry is just one deterrent.

“We still have some things that we need to fix up to meet the requirements to fix up the place before we can allow them to inspect to give us the go-ahead,” she said, noting that one person was charging $200,000 to carry out a basic pest control exercise while it would cost some $300,000 to repair the canteen.

A frustrated Meek who took office in September 2020, earning her the moniker of the ‘COVID Principal’, said the school had many challenges.

“Me need a school a because you nuh see half a it Mr Serju, if me did carry you pon tour you woulda say suppen else. You have not seen half of my school so I am doing this to see if I can get some traction and get some much-needed help.”

Despite all the setbacks, the school has made some progress with the preparation of an isolation or COVID room where students or anyone who exhibit signs of the virus can be isolated until their parents come to pick them up. However, they still need money for sanitiser and for putting up signs to inform students about the ministry’s protocols.