A breath of fresh air lifts Riverton City education project
Self-taught Krishane Watson leads team making a differenceSunday, July 25, 2021
BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
Entering the Riverton Meadows community you are met with desperate calls from hustlers seeking a sale on items scrimmaged from the dump.
The further in you get, the brighter the picture of poverty becomes, with sights of board houses, people rummaging through fresh items being dumped, the pungent scent of garbage, and a nearby pig pen.
But on the opposite side of the dump, along the banks of the Sandy Gully, the Riverton Meadows Early Childhood Education Centre remains a symbol of hope for many youngsters, a few of whom spend their waking days there tutoring students from the community in a container that serves as the homework centre. One individual, Krishane Watson, met the Jamaica Observer news team on Friday with polite apprehension. For him, too often the news coming out of the community he has called home for 29 years is always negative.
After 'reasoning' with the Sunday Observer for 20 minutes, Watson slowly began sharing that for over five years he has burnt the proverbial midnight oil with children in the community, offering tutoring services at the early childhood institution free of cost to those who wish to attend.
But, though Watson says he is living his dream, which is teaching, he has no formal training. Watson, who mainly tutors mathematics, has six subjects — maths, English, add maths, electrical engineering, and social studies at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level, as well as maths at the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) level.
After leaving Pembroke Hall High, he attended Excelsior Community College and has since been volunteering in the community and does private tutoring jobs when they become available.
Despite having numerous options on how to spend his spare time, he said in his younger years he remembers the community being “rough like a 'war zone'”.
“It was bare bad influence. If you never had your head on your body, you probably wouldn't be alive now. I had to use my family members as an example to stay on the straight and narrow. They are hard-working people,” he said.
Further, Watson said whilst younger he had desperately hoped for a facility he could access lessons and extra help, but it never existed. Subsequently, he vowed to help youngsters with education.
“The truth is most parents are unable to read and children do not really get the support from both parents. Being here with them I hear the various experiences they have and I became passionate about it. If not me, then who?” he reasoned.
During the school term, Watson tutors between the hours of 2:30 pm and 6:00 pm and onwards if needed. When the students are on holiday, Watson engages them between 9:00 am to 1:00 pm.
In addition to helping the students with their math work, Watson also helps several primary school students prepare for their Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams.
Watson further expressed the desire to attend teacher's college and get formal qualifications in mathematics education, however, finances hinder that hope.
“I'd definitely go if I had a scholarship. I enjoy mathematics and seeing how I have made a difference in the lives of children here, I know I could make a larger difference and even expand the after school programme here,” he said.
Two of his students, also volunteers, heaped praise on his abilities and the impact he had on the developing a love and appreciation for the subject.
“Him mek mi can do maths. At first I wasn't a top performer but after I met him and we worked together, I started scoring 90s and over in it,” Shacquille Lobban, a former student who now volunteers at the homework centre said.
Natalie Chambers said: “He is a good teacher and a very hard-working person. He will drill you and if you don't understand trust mi, him nah let yuh go till yuh understand.”
Meanwhile, just a stone's throw away from the homework centre in the building that serves as the early childhood centre, 150 basic school aged to grade eight children attend daily.
Junior Rowe, principal at the Riverton Meadows Early Childhood Education Centre, told the Sunday Observer that in addition to the ongoing homework programme, there is a summer programme for those who have not been to school since the novel coronavirus pandemic hit Jamaica's shores last year.
Rowe, who has been with the school for the past 43 years, said he is pleased that most of the youth from the evening programme also volunteer during the days with the children.
“The learning loss was hard, especially for those who were not going to school. When we started with the summer programme our teachers had some difficulty but our volunteers have been of great help. They stay back and have one-on-one with the children. Because we have constant Wi-Fi, most children up to university level will come and do their SBAs or projects ,” Rowe said, who also serves as the Riverton Meadows CDC chairman.
The institution, which boasts a nursery, school nurse, smart room and a homework centre, according to Rowe, has grown tremendously and has the support and respect of the community.
“When I came here it was as an oasis in the dessert. First time, children would have to sit on the floor for lunch. Right now, every child has a chair,” he said.
Rowe said the school is sponsored by the International Samaritan group and Leadership Empowerment Action Development (LEAD) group organised by Farnoosh Droogdar.
Another volunteer, Richard Gordon, said he too wants to make a difference in the lives of children and so they remain committed.
“Until I make the difference, I am going to keep doing it. Mr Rowe has been of great help to us all. If you're really struggling he helps if he can. I have to pay it forward and help out someone else. They all can do it, they just need guidance,” Gordon, a third-year computer science student at the University of Technology, Jamaica and volunteer said.
Lobban, who is heading into grade 11 at Excelsior High, said he has been volunteering every day since he was in grade five, and would not trade the time spent with the children for anything.
“I help with the younger students and assist the teachers or I help in the kitchen. However I can help, I do so. Living in the ghetto you have to find something constructive. You don't want to be like the rest walking around with that black thing. It's simple – educate yourself so you can educate others. I really hope to see changes and a better path for students – opportunities for the ones who leave high school and can't afford to go to college. This school is a foundation so I will give back in any way possible,” said Lobban, who has his sights set on studying mechanical engineering.
The volunteers also gave hearty thanks to a Sister Gene Poore whom they said has been a backbone in ensuring the evening programme and homework centre goes on.
“For the past five years once we write reports, send to her, she responds and ensures we have money to help out the children in grades four, five and six who come out. We sponsor them with text books and sometimes we do school fees but because of COVID that aspect was put on hold,” Watson said.
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