HOPEWELL, Hanover — Deputy Chief Education Officer Dorrette Campbell has dispelled the notion that last week's motor vehicle accident, which resulted in the death of four Holmwood Technical High School students and serious injuries to several others, is the consequence of a jinx on the school.
Instead, she levelled the blame on the overbearing level of indiscipline which has saturated the society.
"Many may want to think that it is some supernatural act or that Manchester is cursed, or that a section of Manchester is cursed, or the school is cursed or some other explanation," Campbell argued.
"As humans, when something like this happens we try to draw on some explanation but my explanation is different. I say that this unfortunate accident ... this unfortunate tragedy has hit us because of gross indiscipline in our society. I say that it is the lack of order, I say that it is the lack or the inability or the incapacity to differentiate right from wrong. I say it is the gross disrespect, the contempt with which we treat each other on the road. I say it is our poor value system which has resulted in this tragedy and it has nothing to do with the supernatural," Campbell said.
Four Holmwood Technical High School students died as a result of a bus crash in Chudleigh, North East Manchester, Wednesday.
It is alleged that the driver of one of two minibuses taking children to school attempted to overtake improperly, resulting in the horrific crash.
Holmwood students Kimona Levy, Shaneka Muschette and Okeen Gordon were pronounced dead at the Percy Junor Hospital in Spalding. A fourth student, Tameka Peart, died after being airlifted to the University Hospital of the West Indies in St Andrew.
The students died when the two minibuses in which they and more than 30 others were travelling from Mandeville to Christiana collided with a truck in the Chudleigh area.
Wednesday's crash is the latest of several fatal and serious accidents involving public passenger vehicles transporting Holmwood students in northern Manchester and southern Trelawny in recent years. Earlier this year, 18 students were injured in a bus crash on Pen Hill main road, while in 2011, four students died on the Bryce Hill Road after a speeding bus crashed and overturned.
In the meantime, Campbell who was speaking during the welcome, dedicatory and prize-giving ceremony at the Hopewell High School on Thursday, bemoaned the loss of the four students.
"I am thinking of the four children we lost and the threat of losing more. I am thinking of their parents and family and the rest of the school community. And it grieves my heart. It is indeed a tragedy," she lamented.
Meanwhile, former Mayor of Lucea Leslie Moncriffe, who represented Eastern Hanover's Member of Parliament Dr DK Duncan, who is reportedly recovering from a surgery, called on the police and the Transport Authority to remove the dark tints from buses transporting students.
"We want to make a special appeal to the Transport Authority and the Police to make sure that all the dark tints are removed from the Coaster buses and other buses. That will avoid the overcrowding and the bad driving of students. Parents will be able to see what is happening in the buses and to avoid the overloading so that a repeat of what happened in Manchester will not happen in the Montego Bay area," noted Moncrieffe, who is also chairman of the board of governors of Merlene Ottey High School.
He further noted: "Not only that. Each driver now must be reaccessed to see the tickets and the careless driving record they have, before they drive students. It does not need parliamentary legislation, it just needs the support of the police and the Transport Authority."
Meanwhile, Campbell, who discarded her prepared text and instead opted to deliver a "sermon", called on all stakeholders of the seven-year-old educational institution "to make the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil".
"School is a part of the community and if the community misbehaves, it is that the students are going to take their cue from the community and misbehave as well," she noted.
"I am saying, members of the community, parents, community leaders, politicians ... make the most of every opportunity to set the right example for our children. They live what they learn. If we do not change our behaviour, if we do not change the example that we set for our children, then Jah Kingdom gone to waste. And every drop of blood that we shed in Jamaica a fe we own disgrace."
Meanwhile, principal of Hopewell High Joyce Irving, who has been an educator for over three decades, said that she is undaunted by reports that her school's performance in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examinations is ranked at the bottom of the six high schools in the parish.
"I am burdened like one of the prophets of old. I am burdened about the care of our children and regardless of how many CSECs we are measured by. Because I am learning now that of the six high schools in Hanover, we are at the bottom. And there is some remarks that we are less likely to succeed. But we burn that lie," a passionate Irving declared.
"Success for me is to be able to move that child from zero to 10. We have had persons whom we have placed in rehab who have come out with over nine subjects inclusive of Physics and Maths."
She went on to reflect that last school year, 2012/2013, one student, Kimani Stephens graduated with 11 subjects. Two students left with nine, four others got seven subjects, six of the students passed six subjects, five students passed five, seven passed four subjects, while nine students graduated with three subjects each.
"Additionally, a grade eight student passed a subject and a grade nine got two subjects," she said.
Six grade 10 students have already got two subjects, Irving pointed out.
"We are talking about grades one to three and let me pause to say even those who got grade five we moved them from zero to that three," Irving.