Day 22 to 25: School system in Jamaica

Although there are some aspect of Jamaica that is changing like wildfire- in particular the homosexual culture, there are other things that haven’t change- prayers in school. It almost seem odd to watch these boys clasp their hands and repeat a prayer, something they have been doing since they entered the school system, before being dismissed for lunch. They say another prayer after lunch and still another to be dismissed from school. Although I do not arrive early in the morning to watch them stand in lines at the front of the school for devotion, I know they do not go a day without doing this. Let’s just believe in the name of Jesus Christ, that these prayers will be immovable.

On Wednesday this week, I had an appointment to visit one of the primary schools in Portmore. One of the ladies working there, unlocked the large gate to let my cousin and me in. After sometime, the guidance counsellor greeted us and took us to her office. I explained my line of work in Canada and what my studies entail, then she began to spill the issues they have been struggling with. A few of those issues are: Boys kissing each other, two seven-year-old boys attempted to rape a little girl, boys ‘exhorting’. Many of the issues they were having had to do with boys. And although they seem so huge, she alerted me that these are the minorities. Overall, the school has been doing well; in particular, they did exceptionally well at the primary school champs (track and field events). For the coming school year, she said, they have space for 164 children, but over 200 have already registered, “I don’t know what we’re going to do with the extra children” she said.

Male mentors are needed, I told her. Parenting is becoming an issue. It’s not only in Jamaica, Canada too, but at least schools and churches here realize that that’s where the issues lie. Children are being abused in every way (physically, verbally, sexually)…sometimes there are no parents. On my first day volunteering, one student disclosed to me that his grandmother had beaten him with a broomstick which prevented him from doing his school work that day. He did not inform the teacher. Thus, you can imagine her frustration as he stared into space the entire morning without as much as  to remove his backpack. I pulled up a chair next to his desk to inquire the reasons. Tears ran down his cheeks but no words came. I had to coax him into going to buy lunch, that way I would be able to get him to divulge whatever was on his mind. It was on this walk to the tuckshop that he shared the details. So when we returned to the class, I suggested that he take out his book and hold it in his lap since the desk was unreasonably higher than where his hand could reach. The school in general could do well with new furniture and more space. To think one teacher is in charge of up to 18 of these children, who are functioning at such a lower level. The children would do better with more individualized attention. I suggested it to one teacher. It would be useful to make good use of their volunteers, seeing that tons of us go in and out. Yet there is no set program for us. A volunteer coordinator probably would have been useful. But who has money to fund this position.

To be honest, I was thinking about how effective I would be if I found people in Canada who would be willing to volunteer- at this point, I can see that schools are in dire need of help. Let’s see how it goes…

Monday and Tuesday I spent at YMCA and facilitated a presentation for the class I had been working with. In general I think I had their attention. This Thursday I decided to go to the soup kitchen a little earlier, causing me to skip YMCA. I had to help package groceries. There were large bags of flour, sugar, cornmeal, and rice everywhere. The other ladies and I had a bag each. Some were moving considerably faster than others. I used a cup to pour 1 1/2 cup of sugar into a clear bag. I made 118 bags in total which took me roughly 1 hour and 40 minutes. By 12pm, I prepared myself to serve. There were two other ladies who prepared the large pots of rice and peas and stew turkey neck in the meantime. They are the cooks. And today they used the leftover soup from Tuesday. While another lady shared the soup in styrofoam cups, I neatly arranged them on a tray to serve the men and women sitting around tables.

When all was done, we had to clean up, I was in charge of rinsing, another person did the washing and drying.  It was a good day and another excellent week. Looking forward to the weekend!

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Shauna-Kay Cassell

I was born in Jamaica and have been residing in Canada for over 20 years. I graduated with Honours Bachelor of Arts degree at University of Toronto, a Graduate Certificate in Public Administration at Seneca College, and a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) at the University of the West Indies, Mona. I've worked for the former Ministry of Children ad Youth Services (now the Ministry of Children, Community, and Social Services). Now I'm a Court and Client Representative for the Ministry of the Attorney General. In my spare time, I write press releases, blogs, and news articles for different organizations, including my own website. I write about experiences about travelling, social justice issues, relationship and spirituality. Visit me at

3 thoughts on “Day 22 to 25: School system in Jamaica”

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