TROY, Trelawny - Despite the acute socio-economic challenges facing three brothers who are students at the Troy High School, they are determined to defy the odds as they relentlessly pursue their academic journey at the deep-rural Trelawny-based educational institution.
Richard Nelson, the eldest, who started at the Trelawny secondary school in grade nine, is now the deputy head boy, while Adrian was recently promoted to grade 10 after finishing at the top of his class. Jay has just started in grade seven at the school.
According to their sister Chantol Bailey, after discovering that her three younger brothers had to be sleeping on the floor while living with their paternal grandmother in St Catherine, she felt compelled to take them under her wings at her Stettin home in Trelawny where she lived with her husband and three children.
Although the living conditions were far superior to what they were accustomed to in St Catherine, Bailey is finding it very challenging to send the boys to school, as her husband is the sole breadwinner, as she is unable to work having suffered extensive chop wounds during a domestic dispute.
The incident has left her unable to use one of her hands.
But even before that, she was initially confronted with the challenge of securing placement for the two elder brothers before they were accepted at Troy High School.
As fate would have it, the youngest brother Jay, who was performing at infant school level when he came to Trelawny, has since shown marked improvement and was placed at Troy High School after his Primary Exit Profile (PEP) exams.
For most days, the two elder brothers have to attend school on alternate days as their sister is only able to find the bus fare for just one of them.
Richard, 17, reflected that there was only one belt to share among himself and Adrian, who turned 16 on Wednesday; and so he had to employ innovative ways whenever they both attended school the same day, as boys are not allowed at the institution without wearing a belt.
"So when we just started going to school we only had one belt. So if he [Adrian] a go and me naw go, him wear the belt and when me a go me would the wear it. But if the two of us are going now them don't let we in unless we have the belt. So one go over first and send someone with it to the gate," Richard related.
The deputy head boy also recounted that sometimes he had to seek employment with his brother-in-law, who is a mason, to supplement what his sister assisted them with for school.
He noted that before he became a member of the executive group of the prefect body, he had to also "chance" selling sweets to other students at the school, which is not allowed, for economic survival.
Eventually, the brothers' plight was recognised by vigilant members of the school's academic staff, who are now providing them with much-needed assistance.
In fact, during Monday's consecration service and benefaction ceremony at the school, the boys were selected among the recipients of grants handed out by the chairman of the school board, C Junior Gager, who is also mayor of Falmouth and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) councillor for the Warsop Division.
The first red flag that signalled the brothers' woes to the school was their poor attendance, according to Melody Smith, senior guidance counsellor at Troy High School.
"First of all, there is a system here at the school where if the students are absent for a number of days then the form teacher needs to refer the students to the guidance department. So when their reference came in and I recognised these two boys are brothers, that's Richard and Adrian at the time, before the addition of Jay, I did my background checks and I realised that they were having a challenge," said Smith.
"They were not miserable in how they carried themselves; they were still mannerly, they were pleasant. The truth is if we were not serving the PATH [Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education] lunch they would gladly stay without the food. If you don't identify them and go for them and say 'I am giving you lunch,' they will gladly stay without the food."
Acting Principal Alliah Chambers Green said despite their financial challenges, the brothers' academic performance and their mannerism are outstanding, adding that Richard also demonstrates leadership qualities.
"I heard from the teachers and there was a constant word on the ground that this young man has leadership potential. Whenever we are looking for prefects, teachers observe conduct and mannerism, leadership qualities and we identify them. And so, we were able to see those students whose names are recurring. So he [Richard] would have been identified as someone with leadership potential," Chambers Green argued.
"In spite his [Richard] attendance pattern, he was still standing out. He was still seen as an excellent student."
Although he is still uncertain how they will be paid for, Richard revealed that he will be sitting nine subjects in the next sitting of the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) exams and is adamant that he is striving for grade one passes in all of them.
"I don't know how I will get to pay for them but the school say if you score a certain amount on the subjects, PATH will pay for some of them. I want to get pure grade ones. I don't want to let down anyone who is helping me," he said.
Meanwhile, Bailey, who still has her mind set on attending teachers' college next year, has recently achieved four of the five subjects required to matriculate to the tertiary institution while attending evening classes.
She further revealed that she will be sitting two additional subjects this academic year.
"I went to the Albert Town Evening Institution where I did the subjects through HEART /Trust NTA; they offer free tuition," she told the Observer West.
"I got my results last Monday and I was successful in four CXC subjects — one in English A, one in social studies, a grade three in maths, three in EDPM [electronic document preparation management]. I got distinction in City of Guilds math and English language and I have signed up to do human and social biology and information technology this year as five subjects are required for teachers' college," said the mother of three, who dropped out of St Catherine High School in grade 10 after she became pregnant.
Added Bailey: "I don't know where the money is coming from for teachers' college but I am a God-fearing person, so I am confident that it will happen."