Double jeopardy

Double jeopardy

Students, parents struggling with online classes now forced to flee landslide-prone areas in Bull Bay

BY SHARLENE HENDRICKS
Staff reporter
hendrickss@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

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Landslides and flooding in Bull Bay communities have raised concerns among administrators at St Benedict's Primary School for students who are already struggling with online learning.

Principal Jacqueline Carter-Dixon told the Jamaica Observer that several students from these vulnerable communities have had to relocate because of the imminent danger of land slippage.

“The slippages are still taking place within the community. Houses are still sinking. That is a concern also because some of the students are not properly supervised. We have parents who have been affected and who have had to come here while the children are staying with family,” said Carter-Dixon, who spoke with the Observer at a recent handing-over ceremony of tablets donated by charity organisation One One Cocoa.

“It is mentally challenging for the children and the parents too, who have to go to work.

“To add to that, the flooding that took place recently affected some of our students and their parents, so the needs continue to widen and so does the gap in learning,” Carter-Dixon said, adding that of the approximately 230 student population, fewer than 50 students are engaged online.

The principal also said that the 83 tablets allotted to the school by the Ministry of Education for students on Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH) were not enough as more than half of the school's population qualified to receive a tablet.

“But, I am nevertheless very delighted because One One Cocoa stepped up to our needs. I expressed to them some of the grave concerns that we have in terms of not only reaching our students, but the economic hardships that they were facing.

“There is a great learning gap because we know where our children are coming from. We knew from then some of the needs that we had to meet because of the strategic activities and plans that we had in place, and with that faltering we know that at this time, not only will we have to start from beginning but from basic,” Carter-Dixon said.

After nearly two weeks of rainfall, which triggered landslides in the Shooter's Hill community, the school, located in Seven Miles, Bull Bay, was designated a shelter by the Kingston and St Andrew Municipal Corporation to accommodate residents who have had to evacuate their homes.

According to grade-five teacher and school shelter assistant Sajeea Robinson, several residents, including parents, have turned up at the school for temporary boarding.

“We have between seven and 10 persons here nightly. Presently we have seven persons still here because they have nowhere else to go. We have had parents of students at this school turn up as well because the houses are still sinking up there and they still haven't been able to get their stuff out of the houses,” said Robinson.

One guardian, who spoke with the Observer, said her house was also impacted by land slippage. The woman wished not be named, but stressed that she had been working to keep her nephew focused on school.

“The wall at the back of our house came down because we have clay dirt around there, and where he sleeps gets flooded when it rains. But it doesn't really affect him much... But for a couple days he was not online because Wi-Fi was down, so that put a little stress on us. And the Wi-Fi keeps going in and out because of the weather,” the woman said.

In the meantime, the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management, along with other non-government organisations, have been providing food and other supplies to people staying at the school.

“The St Benedict's Church is also involved because they saw the need for proper bathing facilities and they have opted to have a temporary shower installed for them, in addition to the school facilities that they would use,” said Carter-Dixon.


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