Sagicor moves to abort closure of school for the deaf

Observer staff reporter

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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IT now appears likely that St Christopher's School for the Deaf will not have to close its doors.

Yesterday, Sagicor Jamaica threw the school a lifeline by offering to do an early assessment of the damage done to the more than 100-year-old school by termites.

“I'm a bit concerned about its supporting structure with the termites. Perhaps we could accelerate our involvement by doing an emergency assessment, because we're worried about that,” Sagicor Group Jamaica President and Chief Executive Officer Christopher Zacca told Principal Donna Harris and Vice-Principal Stacy-Ann Dockery during this week's Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange.

Zacca made the offer after Harris shared the school's everyday ordeal with reporters and editors at the Exchange, held to discuss the details of Sagicor's February 18 event, which will benefit the school, located in Brown's Town, St Ann, and Spanish Town Hospital's Paediatric Unit.

The termites, Harris said, are “affecting the school and the dorm, but it's especially bad at the school where we have things falling from the roof onto the classroom furniture and the dust from that is causing respiratory issues with some of the students and teachers. The problem is very critical”.

She said that the roof of the dorm leaks severely and that the 38 children who stay there do so for the greater portion of the school year. The school has a population of 42 students — 23 boys and 19 girls.

Harris stressed that it is the responsibility of the school to provide a safe environment for the students and staff.

“The leaking is something that we have been trying to work on for years, but we have never got a full commitment for repairs until now,” she said in reference to Sagicor's pledge to donate funds from the road race now in its 20th year.

“We might have a patch here and there, but it has never been enough. As a school with a lot of boys we find that they like to play in the water. So when we have the leaks they have fun, but it is not very safe,” Harris said, adding that she tries to ensure safety.

The principal also disclosed that the school relies, at times, on tanks for water, but pointed out that the tanks do not have a water filtration system, making the commodity unsafe for consumption.

The school is also in need of photocopiers.

“Our children are visual learners,” Harris explained. “They are not able to hear, so we find that we have a lot of photocopying to do so that we can use them in the classroom as visual aids. We photocopy a lot so that our students can see what they are supposed to be hearing. Our photocopier is a little over the hill, and it gives us less service than it gives us more.”

The school, she explained, is grant-funded, but staff are paid by the Ministry of Education. Government, through the of Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education, provides lunch to those students who qualify, while hotels and organisations in and around the parish also support the school.

Harris, who became deaf after suffering an attack of meningitis, shared that she understands the challenges her students experience daily.

“When we encountered the issue with the school roof and the problems we have at school, and we realise that we are unable to assist and the possibility exists that we have to send these students home, that we may have to close the school because we can't keep them there it became a bother to us,“ she said.

“When you send these students home you are sending them to a place where there is nobody there that can communicate with them. So when we think of closing down school until we are able to repair we really feel it. So when Sagicor came on board it was overwhelming… we are more than grateful,” Harris said.

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