KELLITS, Clarendon — After months of struggling without piped water and electricity, and amid swirling rumours of closure, the Kellits skills training centre is to get some much needed attention.
The centre, which is funded by the HEART Trust/NTA, has been serving residents of the wider northern Clarendon since it opened in 1990, but it fell into disrepair in recent times. In addition to being without utilities, sections of the roof are leaking, the computers don’t work, and only one of several stoves is functional.
The situation, disgruntled students say, lengthens the duration of their studies.
Jamaica Observer Central was unable to get a comment from the training school’s management last week, but Horace Dalley, member of Parliament for Northern Clarendon, has pledged to do everything in his power to keep the institution open. In fact, Dalley, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and Planning, said plans to refurbish the school are at an advanced stage.
“As long as I am the Member of Parliament the Kellits skills centre will never be closed,” he said. “It won Centre of the Year from HEART Trust for eight years in a row, but fell into some hard times because of a lack of attention to the point where HEART considered if they should keep it open,” he said.
“However, I met with (them) and the director (last week) to set some things in place for work to begin. They are interested in keeping it open so we are going to refurbish the entire centre and bring it back to what it was so that the students who are there can complete their respective courses,” Dalley said.
The students themselves, though frustrated at the situation, note the value of the institution to their community and are adamant that it will remain open.
“Under our watch this school will never be closed,” said Shannette Burnett, a spokesperson for the group. “If it’s even to go out there and beg sponsorship we will do it just to keep it open,” she said.
“This school has been here for over 20 years and it has helped a lot of persons, including my mother, brother and other family members and at the moment it’s the only one in the area so a lot of communities depend on it,” she added.
The school is said to have a registered student population of more than 100, but has seen numbers drop to about 36 because of a perceived decline in conditions and training standards. There are only three teachers and three areas of study: food, housekeeping and restaurant service.
All things being equal, Burnett said it takes six to eight months to complete the Level One training in a particular course. With the lack of proper amenities however, the students who say they have been attending classes for more than a year, are yet to complete the programme.
“Whenever we are in the classroom we have to open the windows and doors to get light because we have no electricity or water for the past six months,” Burnett said.
“Whenever it rains we have to set buckets because the roof is leaking. We have about eight to 11 computers, none of which is working, and nine stoves, but only one is in working condition,” she said.
Another student, Sean Patterson, who is studying to become a commercial cook, added: “Because there’s basically no kitchen I cannot go any further. Whenever we have practical we have to charter (transportation) to take us to Ebony Park all the way in May Pen.”
Kellits has a population of nearly 3,000.