Pain and disbelief at Vauxhall High

Pain and disbelief at Vauxhall High

Murdered teacher mourned by colleagues, students, community

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

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Morning devotion at Vauxhall High School in Kingston yesterday was not easy.

Grief, expressed through tears and sobs, filled the auditorium as students, teachers, alumni, residents of neighbouring communities, and people who didn't even know 36-year-old Carl Samuels reflected on his brutal murder by gunmen last Saturday evening.

Samuels, who taught theatre arts at the school on Windward Road in east Kingston, was shot dead on the school compound about 7:35 pm.

The pain at Samuels's loss was evident from as early as 7:00 am as people flooded the school, discussing the tragedy in groups.

They consoled each other during the praise and worship session. Eventually, emotion got the better of fifth-form student C-ndre Jackson, who had assisted with the devotion.

“I was going to Camperdown (High School) when I heard all the gunshots. When I reach Camperdown I got a call that someone died over here and then a couple minutes after, my uncle called and told me that it was my teacher,” 16-year-old Jackson said, adding that all he could do was cry.

“I sent him my (theatre arts) SBA the same day (Saturday) and he told me that he would give me an answer on Sunday… He has been like a father,” the grade eleven student said. “He was a teacher, a great mentor, and a father figure. Mr Samuels showed me a lot of things; he told me a lot of jokes during drama class. He usually provoked me because I was late for class but yet still I always do my work.”

Vauxhall High past student and Shortwood Teachers' College culinary student Michael Sellars's brown eyes were filled with tears as he spoke about the impact Samuels made on his life.

“Mr Carl Samuels was always there supporting me through any field I wanted to pursue while trying to draw me back into theatre because it builds your confidence. He was just different,” Sellars told the Jamaica Observer.

Sellars, who graduated from Vauxhall in 2017, while noting his fondest memory of Samuels, said he was still in disbelief when he heard about the teacher's murder on Saturday.

“When we are talking to him and we say 'Jesus Christ' he would say him nuh name God yet or him nuh name Jesus yet,” Jackson said with a chuckle.

Former deputy head girl and 2018 graduate Selena Campbell told the Observer that Samuels gave her the confidence she needed to believe in herself.

“I remember when I just came in grade seven I was the smallest person on the block, very fine, and he looked down and looked back up and said 'Oh, somebody standing in front of me' and I started to laugh, and he said 'I am going to work on you',” Campbell recalled.

Arguing that Samuels's passion and drive made the school better than it was before he got there, Campbell said it was painful to hear about his passing.

“I heard about it Saturday after 8:00 pm. I saw a post on WhatsApp and I said this is not right. The Sunday morning, while I was going to church, I got a call. I just started to shake. My nervous system broke down. When I heard that he died, I tried to think about what could have killed Mr Samuels. I said to myself, probably it is a car accident because I don't know him as a sick person. When I heard gunshot I was like, oh wow! I was traumatised,” she said.

“He was the one who gave me a voice. I was in theatre arts. When I left primary school I stopped doing drama. He pressured me in grade seven and I joined in grade eight. He brought me to JCDC (Jamaica Cultural Development Commission) allowed me to join culture club. When the opportunity came for head girl, I told him that I didn't want to and he said 'Listen, one of these positions is yours.' He was a man who I looked up to,” Campbell added.

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