A basic school in dire need

Students face danger, inconvenience at Mount Ebenezer

BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Observer staff reporter
hibbertk@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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An uphill drive through rugged terrain and one mile of woodlands in Mount Industry, St Catherine, will take you to Mount Ebenezer Basic School, nestled in a small farming community known as Aberdeen.

Above the entrance door to the wooden structure are the motivational words: “Tomorrow is built today”.

But inside, the sounds of happy children contrast sharply with the grim state of the building, its fixtures and, even more depressing, a small structure sitting on a slope to the rear of the property housing three pit latrines.

The danger that this facility poses to the 26 students is that when they need to go, they must be supervised by either the principal, Fidolin Dillon, or teacher Nikesha Harris Douglas.

One non-governmental organisation, Personal Community and Empowerment Builder, has decided to replace the pit toilets with an indoor flush toilet system, and as such is seeking sponsorship to assist with this project.

But the four-decades-old school has other pressing needs, among them a strengthened roof, a perimeter fence, a refrigerator, and a stove.

“We can't buy meat like how we used to once, because there is nowhere to store it. We have to ask our neighbours permission to squeeze items into their fridge. If the children want a cold drink, they have to freeze it and bring to school,” Harris Douglas told the Jamaica Observer.

Regarding the fence, the teacher pointed out that without barriers the children face the risk of falling over the slopes around the property.

“The playground is right on the edge, and though plants are there we have to watch them to ensure they don't slip,” said Harris Douglas.

Some parents who were present when the Observer visited appealed for help on behalf of the school.

“It needs some paint and fencing. Sometimes animals will come onto the grounds and, apart from that, you see the slopes around the place. We need a proper playground as well,” Millicent Williams said, adding that a feeding programme for some of the less-fortunate children would help.

“I am really hoping to see the flush toilet for the children, as it is safer,” Sandra Howell said.

Olive Davis, on the other hand, said an earning project for the school and parents of the students would help to make a difference.

“It's a small farming community but it is difficult to do it on a large scale, and it can be expensive. Most of us plant yam, banana, sorrel and callaloo and raise chickens. If we could find a way to do this, earn from it and at the same time assist the school, it would help,” Davis said.

Principal Dillon said that despite the challenges she remains committed to continuing the school she started 42 years ago.

“I started this school on my verandah with four children up in the hills. In the space of about a year I was being assessed by education officers. We were progressive and eventually moved off the hill and we have managed to survive. Ask me how, I don't know, — it must be the will of God. There is not a lot of employment in the area, but the community has really helped us out. Sometimes the parents cannot pay the school fee or the lunch money, but we carry on,” Dillon told the Observer.

“We have survived 42 years. We love our children and we want to see people upgrade. We are the older of two basic schools in the area and this level is the foundation for a good education. People laud me everyday as their first teacher; some of them I don't remember, but these are the things I live by.

“I have taught hundreds of children. Now I am teaching some of their children, grand- children and great-grands. Majority of them achieve in life and most become Christians, and I ensure to give them that extra boost and support in their faith walk,” added Dillon, who has also been a pastor for 36 years.

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