Church offers summer school for Murray Mount studentsFriday, July 30, 2021
BY AKERA DAVIS
OCHO RIOS, St Ann — Volunteers from the Barbary Hill Seventh Day Church of God in Murray Mount, St Ann have transformed the house of worship into a place where children lagging behind in their schoolwork can catch up.
Once decked out with furniture suited for a congregation, the church now houses tables from where students work, chairs and a white board. There is a summer school programme there on weekdays.
The initiative started in the first week of July after the church's pastor, Courtney Blake, and his wife Sarah made the suggestion. After the good news began to make its way throughout the community, more and more students signed up. The programme which once catered to nine students now sees more than 31 attending classes daily. They range from kindergarten to secondary level.
The teachers are Akeba Martin, Marion Gordon and Shanice Martin. Akeba Martin is a former agricultural science teacher at Westwood High School and caters to the secondary level students. Gordon tutors primary school students while Shanice Martin, an experienced basic school teacher, provides lessons to those in kindergarten.
“I feel so good to be a part of this initiative because I feel like I'm giving back to my community,” Akeba Martin told the Jamaica Observer.
She sees this as a way to help students who have had challenges with Internet connectivity and availability of devices.
“Most [of] my students have forgotten a lot of stuff because they were not on the online classes. This summer school will help them to catch up, so if schools do reopen in September it will not be so hard for the teachers,” she said.
The classes also have the added benefit of keeping the children off the streets. For many, a trip to the church grounds has now become a daily routine. A visit means access to free Wi-Fi.
“It is a great experience to be a part of such a positive move which is giving back to the community and, most importantly, it keeps children off the streets and out of danger,” said Gordon. “It also helps to build me as a leader and teaches me how to cope with children.”
Classes are from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm and, in keeping with COVID-19 safety protocols, both teachers and students wear masks during those hours. Hand sanitisation and temperature checks are also done upon entry, the Observer was told.
The teachers have already seen a difference in the children attending classes, and this pushes them to do even more.
“I have seen improvement in my students over the past few weeks. Most of them were left behind, especially since the pandemic because they were not even online,” Shanice Martin told the Observer “Children came who couldn't even spell their names and they are way better now. It makes me super happy because children have always been [important to] me.”
Gordon also gets great joy from her work on the project.
“I meet students with different abilities, some slower than others, so I have to set work at different levels. But they are progressing and to see that really gives me a good feeling and makes me want to do more,” she said.
To provide students with a well-rounded summer school experience, the church also provides them with lunch. Meals are prepared and packaged by another member of the church, Angela Dunkley.
“We do snacks, chicken and bread, tuna and corn beef sandwiches with drink most days. Children can't function on hungry stomach so we have to give them food,” said Dunkley.
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