What are my memories of school in Jamaica? Well the first thing that comes to mind are Khaki school uniforms, lunch boxes, (school lunches weren’t sold at school) and a smiling teacher in the morning to greet me at the end of my trip from home to school. The school I attended in Kingston was a primary school and had an aggregate
of students from different walks of life. They were students of different ethnicities and backgrounds, but what made the relationship between the students in my school special was that we were: “out of many one student.” Or what they say in Jamaica: “Out of many one people,” so that mind-set in my school between teachers and students, made coming to school and learning more beneficial. The customs at my primary school were unlike any other school I’d attended. First, the chewing of gum was not permitted. Whether it was inside or outside the classroom. I believe that school officials felt that gum would be detrimental to school property, because of our human instinct to stick it under the desk, so the teacher couldn’t see it, or to stick it on the wall. But most students placed the used gum in the trash can. Among the students, there was the belief that if you accidentally swallowed your gum, it would sit on your stomach for seven years. So with the school rule and the belief of the students made gum chewing in school at the time non-existent.
My next memory was the school curriculum at the primary school in Jamaica, which consisted of three courses: reading, writing, and math. Also students were taught cursive hand-writing as a free-elective, or extra course. Among the three courses, math was a subject area that was of great interest to me. Trying to figure out multiplication, division, and fractions was my strong point in school. What intrigued me about math was that it was a problem that I had to figure out on my own. So when I finally solved the equation, I had self-actualization and a better understanding of the subject better. Furthermore, math was a subject that developed my problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. Out of the three courses, there seemed to be more emphasis on math, unlike the writing and reading courses that seemed stagnant in learning quality. But the curriculum was still informative in all of the subjects. The writing and reading courses weren’t my strong points in school, but I still excelled in these subjects. With having to take these three courses, one of the positives was having to stay in the same classroom. I didn’t have the inconvenience of going to another room. There was one drawback to this and that was the classroom had to be shared with another teacher and her students. The classroom environment was made up of students in a writing course and students in a math course. The intermediary between the two classes in the one room was the blackboard in the middle of the class to separate the classes. During the time this was taking place, the school was undergoing construction to build a second floor that would add more classrooms. After the construction, the school was able to provide more one subject classrooms. With the addition of the second floor, the students got the chance to experience a refurbished library and computer room.
Lastly, a recollection of school in Jamaica wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the play environment of the school yard. Soccer (or football as we referred to it) and cricket were the major sources of play at school. When that school bell rang, and there wasn’t any homework assigned by the teacher, the common thought among the boys or “youths” was to have a game of football. Running down the stairs and onto the football field to have a quick game, before your uncle or aunt came to pick you up was common. After choosing teams of about five or six “brethrens” the two teams would commence in the past, shuffle, and shoot that we refered to as football. The high competitiveness and athletic ability between the two teams would draw a crowd of other students that were intrigued by the points scored between the opposing teams.
During most of these games, we would have to worry about not getting our khaki uniforms dirty and/or damaged, because they were hard to refurbish. Also, the school officials wouldn’t let regular cloths compensate for damaged Khaki uniforms. As most games continued, we would drop out one by one because relatives would arrive to pick us up. Or the bus to Spanish Town was in the distance and a fellow footballer had to catch that bus ride home. At the end of the game, tired and sometimes victorious with a dirt smudged khaki uniform, I would make the trip home by foot or public bus with the thought in mind that I would wake-up and experience the benevolence of the Jamaican school system the next day.