BY KARYL WALKER Associate editor — Crime/court desk email@example.com
CONSTRUCTION teacher at the BB Coke High Schoool in Junction, St Elizabeth, Garfield Dennis, has still not recovered from a near-death experience that he had when he was stabbed in the back with a knife by a male student three years ago.
Dennis told the Jamaica Observer that he had reprimanded the teenage student who had approached him in a menacing manner and was behaving rudely when the incident occurred.
"On May 13, 2010 I was talking to some of my female colleagues when the boy came up to me and said, 'Dutty bwoy dutty chi beard'. I got up and approached him. I touched him in his forehead and told him we were not companions and walked away. The boy stabbed me in the back and ran off," Dennis told the Sunday Observer.
When he was taken to a doctor in the nearby town square, Dennis was diagnosed with internal bleeding and was rushed to a hospital after one of his lungs almost collapsed. He spent a week in hospital and was given 43 days' sick leave by a doctor.
The boy went on the run for over two years before he was eventually held, charged, convicted and sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to a charge of unlawful wounding in the Black River Resident Magistrate's Court in July 2012.
The teenager spent a total of eight months locked up before he was released.
Soon after the attacker was released, reports emerged that he was a suspect in the murder of a schoolgirl in the parish.
What was shocking to Dennis was that even though he was brutally attacked and his livelihood seriously affected, none of the teenager's relatives made contact with him until he was caught by the police two years after.
"It was only then that his mother came to me and wanted to ask me to drop the charges. I told her it was in the hands of the police and there was nothing I could do," he said.
But his injury was just the beginning of his woes, as, apart from teaching construction, Dennis had his own business and because he was out of commission for more than a month, he was unable to work and was forced to repay thousands of dollars he had accepted as deposits from his clients.
His medical bills had mounted and, strapped for cash, he was forced to borrow a huge sum from a credit union. He is still servicing that loan by way of salary deductions.
"My monthly take-home pay is $7,600," he said.
Teachers have no insurance against injuries received from students while on the job.
Dennis has also complained that he has received no assistance from the Eduction Ministry despite communicating through letters of his plight. He said that money was deducted from his salary by the ministry who informed him that his sick leave was too lengthy.
"The ministry drew money from my salary for three days citing the fact that my sick leave was too long and it shoudn't have been longer than 40 days. For months I could not work and I had to find money to pay back my clients," he said.
"I have called the ministry time and time again. They have made me promises. I got a letter from them on April 8 saying they will be writing the Attorney General to seek advice," he said.