Jamaica Gleaner

AUCHTEMBED­DIE DY­ING ONE SER­VICE AT A TIME

Slow death of North West Manch­ester com­mu­nity with clo­sure of health cen­tre, post of­fice and pri­mary school

- Na­dine Wil­son-Harris Staff Re­porter Manchester Parish · Jamaica · Malaysian Ministry of Education · Ministry of Human Resource Development · Canadian House of Commons · diocese · West Manchester Township · North Manchester, Indiana

FEONA MITCHELL and her neigh­bours wept openly when it was an­nounced that the pri­mary school in their North West Manch­ester com­mu­nity will not be open come Septem­ber.

While their tears were prompted by news of the school’s im­pend­ing clo­sure, it is the seem­ing slow death of their com­mu­nity which is break­ing their hearts.

Hav­ing lost most of their young peo­ple to the lure of more ur­ban com­mu­ni­ties, as well as their health cen­tre and post of­fice, Mitchell and her neigh­bours be­lieve it’s now time to cross Auchtembed­die off the map of Ja­maica.

“Tears came to my eyes. Mi seh mi cry, mi have to take out rag and wipe tears, and other par­ents over there have to take out rag and wipe tears,” Mitchell told The Sun­day Gleaner as she sat on her veran­dah which gives her a clear view of the school build­ing and court­yard.

“The clinic gone, the post of­fice gone, and now the school gone. Just as well the road block and no­body no pass through here again,” said Mitchell, who, like most of the other res­i­dents in Auchtembed­die, had been ed­u­cated at the pri­mary school.

Up to the end of the last school year, three of Mitchell’s chil­dren and her grand­child were en­rolled at the school. She has since been in­structed to have them reg­is­tered at one of three schools lo­cated in neigh­bour­ing dis­tricts, but the un­em­ployed mother be­lieves this change is go­ing to take a huge toll on her al­ready ‘bruk’ pocket.

“I see par­ents here right now and can’t send them pick­ney go school for the whole week. Although we get the PATH (Pro­gramme of Ad­vance­ment Through Health and Ed­u­ca­tion), we still can’t send we pick­ney them for the whole week, be­cause there is no job that we have.”

SMALL POP­U­LA­TION FORCES SCHOOL CLO­SURE

Auchtembed­die is one of 18 pri­mary schools that will be closed by the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion come Septem­ber, due to their small pop­u­la­tion, among other fac­tors.

Mitchell and other par­ents had staged a protest fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of the school’s clo­sure and had pleaded with the min­istry to pre­serve what was for them their last re­main­ing sym­bol of civil­i­sa­tion, but to no avail.

“All the talk we talk, what the min­istry say is re­ally true, be­cause they say they need 100 chil­dren and we have only 53 en­rolled, so we can’t do noth­ing more,” she con­ceded.

“I am old now, so I can­not have any more pick­ney. A pick­ney it want and I am not go­ing to have any more,” said the mother of five.

There are con­cerns that some of these 18 school build­ings will join the long list of ‘white ele­phants’ in Ja­maica, but Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment for North Manch­ester Mikael Phillips as­sures that this will not be the case for Auchtembed­die which was started more that 40 years ago by the Angli­can dio­cese.

Ac­cord­ing to Phillips, he in­tends to speak to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the church about the prospect of trans­form­ing the school into a re­source cen­tre, but even that will be a chal­lenge, as money will have to be pumped into bring­ing the build­ing up to stan­dard.

Just the roof alone is go­ing to cost be­tween $4 mil­lion and $7 mil­lion to be re­paired, and he will not be able to do so any time soon.

“It is no longer the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion to re­pair the roof, and they were al­ready hav­ing a chal­lenge in find­ing funds to re­pair it, and I don’t think that the church is go­ing to pay to re­pair the roof, and as mem­ber of par­lia­ment, we will not have that amount of re­sources to re­pair the roof, so we are still left with a chal­lenge,” Phillips told The Sun­day Gleaner.

 ??  ?? An emo­tional Feona Mitchell de­scrib­ing
the slow death of Auchtembed­die while
a child looks on.
An emo­tional Feona Mitchell de­scrib­ing the slow death of Auchtembed­die while a child looks on.
 ?? PHOTOS BY IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ?? Auchtembed­die dis­trict in Manch­ester.
PHOTOS BY IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Auchtembed­die dis­trict in Manch­ester.

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