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VIDEO: Birthday Wish

Fire victim just wants school supplies as she turns 16

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

YOUNG Tenille Richards had one wish as the new school year got under way yesterday — to get assistance to acquire much-needed back-to-school supplies.

The teen, who turns 16 today, was lost in her thoughts when the Jamaica Observer approached her just outside the vice-principal's office at Enid Bennett High School, formerly Bog Walk High, in St Catherine, yesterday.

Fire destroyed her family home in May, rendering them homeless, and since that time, her mother, Benive Watson, has been unable to bounce back and has sought shelter at a facility owned by a community church.

It was with that piece of news the two visited the school yesterday, which had been closed since March amid a swelling novel coronavirus pandemic that turned the education sector topsy-turvy.

Tenille was to begin grade 11 yesterday, but with the demand for e-learning increasing and a plan not yet devised to access physical copies of lessons, she is unsure when that will happen.

“I'm not really managing with the schoolwork. It's not going so good,” the teen, who has developed a passion for agriculture, said.

“Because mi using mi mother phone, mi nuh really able fi get everything that mi fi get, like the lessons and so,” the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education beneficiary added.

Asked if she could be granted one wish for her birthday, what it would be, she said apprehensively, “School supplies.”

While her mother has tried to make preparations for the new school year, resources have been very limited and the new e-learning requirements have created an added challenge.

The teen told the Observer that while others were busy with activities as the new school year got under way, her thoughts were fixed on the lingering tragedy.

Tenille and her two siblings were home alone in Banbury District, Linstead, when a woman with whom her mother allegedly had a short dispute, visited and issued threats.

Shortly after, the three noticed smoke coming from a section of the wooden structure and raised an alarm before exiting the building. But, before help could arrive, the house was engulfed in flames.

The woman, who is believed to be a resident of Spanish Town, was reportedly seen fleeing the premises and has not been seen in the area since.

A report was made to the police, Watson shared, but there have been no leads in the case since the incident occurred.

“When mi reach the house burn right down. Dem tell mi the girl come and a kick down the door and a ask fi mi; then that was the result. Mi not telling no lie, mi couldn't manage when mi see it. It hurt mi,” said Watson, her eyes filled with tears.

“Even yesterday my pastor seh, 'Benive, I know it's bothering you on the inside. I know you have it up in your heart. Everything you bottle up and you not sharing it with anybody.' Boy, mi a tell you, it hurt mi. I wasn't there so nothing save. Everything burn up. I couldn't cry mek dem [her children] see. I try nuh cry mek dem see the pain. Mi try fi be strong fi them,” the single mother told the Observer.

More than anything else, her wish is to acquire a bed for the space she and her children now occupy. And while the roof for their current structure is porous and badly in need of repair, the woman said that she remains grateful that they are not out in the cold.

She also remains hopeful of getting back on her feet sometime soon.