Mon | Sep 27, 2021

‘They are catching up nicely’

Bucks Heights teachers giving back to community through free summer classes

Published:Saturday | July 31, 2021 | 12:05 AMCecelia Campbell-Livingston/Gleaner Writer
Students are taught topics they would have missed during the school term owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic and resultant switch to online schooling.
Students are taught topics they would have missed during the school term owing to the global COVID-19 pandemic and resultant switch to online schooling.
Watkis-Reid uses a whiteboard to explain concepts to the children in her class during a recent mathematics session.
Watkis-Reid uses a whiteboard to explain concepts to the children in her class during a recent mathematics session.
Shelly-Ann Watkis-Reid, a trained teacher and acting principal at the Effortville Basic School is volunteering to assist students in the Bucks Height, Clarendon, community where she grew up.
Shelly-Ann Watkis-Reid, a trained teacher and acting principal at the Effortville Basic School is volunteering to assist students in the Bucks Height, Clarendon, community where she grew up.
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The space is cramped, and students sit huddled, masks on, staring intently at the whiteboard as Shelly-Ann Watkis-Reid engages them and goes through the process of solving a mathematics problem.

“Let me try, miss,” one of the eldest in the group shouted as she quizzed them. He is just one of the eager students sitting under the shed beside the board shop, benefiting from the free summer lessons being given by Reid and another teacher, Kadian Watkis Forbes, who also hails from the community of Bucks Heights, Clarendon.

Both teachers, who have been engaging the students since early July, said they were inspired to have the classes because many children in the community fell behind as they struggled to access online classes. Schools across Jamaica have been shuttered, for the most part, since March 2020 to curb the transmission of COVID-19, forcing students into remote classes. Approximately 120,000 students have had little or no schooling since March 2020, and while many schools are on summer break, learning initiatives during the period have been deemed critical, with the Government instituting a National Summer School programme.

A trained teacher and acting principal at the Effortville Basic School, Watkis-Reid said she is encouraged by the grateful parents who are relieved that their children are finally getting a chance to catch up on their schoolwork.

STUDENTS ENGAGED AT ABANDONED HOUSE

Most days, the students are engaged at a roofless, abandoned house with just some measure of protection from the sun. When it rains, they are hurriedly rushed across to the shed beside a shop in the community.

The students are aged from four to 15 with varying levels of education – including some who have had no classes in the just-ended academic year that started last September.

“We take our time in teaching concepts that they have not gotten. It can be pretty challenging, but even the ones that have not been engaged are catching up nicely,” Watkis-Reid told The Gleaner.

She is heartened that students who may have been perceived to have learning challenges are taking on the tasks given with great aptitude and skills. “They just have problems putting their thoughts to paper. We realised we had to use different strategies, and once we did that, they were tackling maths and language arts,” the teacher said.

Veneisha Hurdsmon and Stafaney Ayton, who both have children benefiting from the classes, shared their gratitude for the teachers who are selflessly giving of their time.

“It’s a great job she is doing. This is the first time my daughter has been in class since September,” Ayton shared.

As she continues to guide the children academically, there’s one more thing she’d like to achieve: help the students prepare for back to school.

Watkis-Reid would love some assistance for the students, including back-to-school supplies – books, bags, pencils – anything that can be donated.

To donate to the back-to-school initiative, call Shelly-Ann Watkis-Reid at (876) 887-6878. Have a good story you’d like to share? Email us at goodheart@gleanerjm.com.