Crushed dreams!

Schools lose hope of turn­ing empty lot into play­ing field

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Corey Robin­son Staff Reporter corey.robin­son@glean­erjm.com

AFFTER MORE than a decade of seek­ing per­mis­sion to turn a prob­lem­atic empty lot into a well-needed play­ing field for stu­dents, last week ad­min­is­tra­tors at the St Aloy­sius Pri­mary School in Kingston had their hopes crushed when the Min­istry of Jus­tice signed a $15-mil­lion con­tract to turn the prop­erty into a park­ing lot.

The con­tract was signed be­tween the Gov­ern­ment and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Turbo Con­struc­tion Com­pany, which was com­mis­sioned to con­struct the park­ing lot, said to be well­needed for civil­ians and ad­min­is­tra­tion at the Cor­po­rate Area Civil Court on Sut­ton Street.

Turbo Con­struc­tion Com­pany is also to carry out works on a perime­ter wall and to pave the ground. The work should take 90 days, a re­lease last Thurs­day from the jus­tice min­istry read.

“The con­tract, val­ued at over $15 mil­lion, was signed at a press brief­ing held at the Jus­tice Com­plex in Kingston be­tween the min­istry and Turbo Con­struc­tion Com­pany Lim­ited, who was the suc­cess­ful bid­der fol­low­ing the pro­cure­ment process,” the re­lease stated.

“The sign­ing of this con­tract is part of sev­eral con­tracts signed re­cently to un­der­take restora­tive works at court­houses in Kingston and St James val­ued at over $38 mil­lion. This, to ef­fect the trans­for­ma­tion of the jus­tice sys­tem for a more ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient sec­tor,” con­tin­ued the state­ment, which also quoted Jus­tice Min­is­ter Del­roy Chuck and Carol Palmer, per­ma­nent sec­re­tary in the min­istry.

NE­GLECTED LAND

For more than a decade, the land has been plagued with the stench of hu­man fae­ces, dead an­i­mals and smoke ris­ing from burn­ing de­bris strewn there by res­i­dents from nearby com­mu­ni­ties.

Ear­lier this year, two schoolchil­dren were re­port­edly seen in the lot en­gag­ing in sex­ual ac­tiv­i­ties while oth­ers spied on them. Va­grants, drug ad­dicts and drug sell­ers are also said to fre­quent the lot to carry out their ill-prac­tices.

“The prob­lems that we are fac­ing are nu­mer­ous and un­bear­able. They use over there to dis­pose sewage, filth, to sell drugs and for all sort of sex­ual pur­poses,” com­plained Craig Den­ton, guid­ance coun­sel­lor at the St Aloy­sius Pri­mary School, ear­lier this year.

“It af­fects the stu­dents who are on the up­per part of the build­ing. Mostly those in grades one to three, be­cause they are see­ing what is tak­ing place,” said Den­ton, adding that smoke from the fires af­fected class­rooms on the up­per floors.

The school ad­min­is­tra­tors said they made re­peated ap­peals to the Min­istry of Jus­tice, the Kingston and St Andrew Cor­po­ra­tion (KSAC), and the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter, among other rel­e­vant au­thor­i­ties, to trans­form the aban­doned land into a play­ground; how­ever, in all in­stances the re­quests were turned down.

In a let­ter dated Septem­ber 24, 2010, the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter wrote that: “The National Land Agency ac­quired the same (par­cel of land) in 2006 specif­i­cally for the de­vel­op­ment of Jus­tice Square.”

In De­cem­ber last year, school ad­min­is­tra­tors were again turned down by the Min­istry of Jus­tice, which stated that the land would be used as a car park.

“It is our in­ten­tion now to use the prop­erty for the pur­pose of park­ing for per­sons at­tend­ing the Cor­po­rate Area Civil Court, thereby elim­i­nat­ing the prob­lems which now ex­ist with park­ing. The site is to be fenced and ap­pro­pri­ate man­age­ment con­trols im­ple­mented,” the jus­tice min­istry said.

DIS­AP­POINT­MENT

The re­cent rev­e­la­tion came as a “soft dis­ap­point­ment” to school of­fi­cials, many of whom said they had al­ready lost hope of ever se­cur­ing the prop­erty for the stu­dents.

The prop­erty, they said, would have served as a well-needed play­ground for stu­dents from St Aloy­sius Pri­mary and St Joseph’s In­fant schools, as well as neigh­bour­ing St Ge­orge’s Pri­mary School for Girls, where ad­min­is­tra­tors use a nearby sideroad for sports day events, as the school is bereft of a play­ground.

How­ever, some teach­ers are still hold­ing out hope, ar­gu­ing that the ear­marked car park could still serve as a play­ground for the schools.

Both Chuck and Palmer lauded the sign­ing of the con­tract, but made no men­tion of the re­quest made by the schools.

The min­is­ter said the trans­for­ma­tion of the jus­tice sys­tem ex­tends be­yond political di­vides and that it will “make Ja­maica more at­trac­tive to in­vestors, and re­duce crime and violence”.

Palmer, in charg­ing con­trac­tors, said they must “see them­selves as part­ners hav­ing an obli­ga­tion to ex­e­cute the work on time and within bud­get”.

The Min­istry of Jus­tice signed a $15-mil­lion con­tract to turn the prob­lem­atic empty lot be­hind St Aloy­sius Pri­mary School in Kingston into a park­ing lot. Three schools had hoped to trans­form it into a much-needed play­ground for the stu­dents.

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