For the coming school year, 96 pupils are expected to be enrolled again at Red Hills Primary and Infant School in Clarendon.
RED HILLS, Clarendon – Administrators at Red Hills Primary and Infant School in rural Clarendon are hoping gasoil will help them rid the school of a termite infestation that has plagued them for more than five years. The library has been closed for a long time and the pests have now found their way into the ceiling of a classroom occupied by fifth and sixth graders. They are also in the closets of other classrooms.
“The library was not used because of the problem. We wrote to them [education] ministry and we have not yet received a response. The ministry is putting up a budget where they are putting critical schools on the list, so I think our school hasn’t come up yet,” said principal Jacqueline Corriders Jamaica Observer.
The bugs have already infested charts and other learning materials in camp. There is also a nest in a tree in the schoolyard.
“We tried to get rid of it by using gas oil and another recommended chemical. It’s also been in the staff room and the principal’s office and after trying the mix we don’t see much of it anymore so we’re going to try it in the sixth grade block,” Corriders explained.
Signs of the work being done to prepare for back to school at Red Hills Primary and Infant School.
However, according to pest control experts, any respite offered by the gas oil – or any other type of fuel – will be short-lived as it is one of those do-it-yourself remedies that have proven ineffective in the long run . It only treats the termites you can see, not the hundreds of thousands that are likely lounging in furniture.
Termites are just one of the problems the school faces. A week before the start of the new school year, the administration cannot ignore the fact that they simply do not have enough furniture.
“We are not extremely small because we have enough for the infant department. The challenge is in the elementary school where we use the single combo desk and chair. Over the years some have been damaged so we need a few more,” the Headmaster said.
If the observer visited the facility in deep rural Clarendon, there were clear signs that work was being done to make the teaching and learning environment more comfortable.
Furniture that cannot be used due to termite infestation.
The relatively small school, situated on a hill and surrounded by dense vegetation, had 96 students, including 23 young children, in its final year. Almost the same number is expected when the school reopens in September. The kids who graduated last year have now gone to elementary school, where the sixth graders are moving on to high school. With such small numbers, Red Hills Primary uses the multi-grade system. This brings together students from different classes into one class, taught by one educator.
Principal Corriders understand things will not go smoothly when school resumes.
“Our classrooms are not big enough to accommodate two classes – like grades five and six – for September and we could face challenges there. Our multi-grade classes are grades five & six, grades two & three, and toddlers one & two. If we had a different teacher, that would solve the problem of fifth and sixth grade, because those are the two grades on the final exams,” she explained.
Although she would welcome an additional teacher, she said the school is not among those lagging behind when employees are fired.
The termite-infested ceiling of the classroom that houses grades five and six.
“We are not affected by teacher migration. I am not aware of any resignations being submitted and as such we are fully preparing for the return of face-to-face teaching,” Corriders said.
Despite the termite infestation and concerns about the multi-tier system, their efforts to prepare to accept students are well advanced.
“We’ll have our staff meeting next week and then we’ll move to clean the house. We have enough water stored in our tanks so we will clean up and get things in order for September,” the Headmaster assured. “We’re building a partition to separate grades three and four because of the noise, and we’re also putting in concrete seats and tables to make the students feel more comfortable outside during lunchtime.”
As COVID-19 is still a health concern, safety protocols such as disinfection stations and an isolation room are still in place.
Termite nest in a tree in the schoolyard.