School GG Sir Patrick once headed badly run down – Jamaica Observer

THE structure of the primary school that once had the now Governor General as its principal is in dire need of physical improvement.
Robin’s Bay Primary School in central St Mary was built in 1951 and now accommodates 64 students divided equally among the sexes, supervised by an acting principal, four teachers, and a guidance counsellor.
Patrick Allen, now Governor General Sir Patrick, served as principal of the small institution during the mid-1970s. Community folk said, too, that his wife, Lady [Denise Patricia Beckford] Allen also taught at the school while her husband was principal, but that information could not be corroborated by the Jamaica Observer.
She, however, taught at Hillside Primary, also in the central region.
Even from Principal Allen’s time in charge in 1976 there had been efforts to improve the property in order to make the lives of the children, teachers, and members of the ancillary staff that more comfortable. Yet, the cries remain constant.
Pledges were also made by political leaders over the years that a new structure would have been built. That, too, remains a wish.
A Labour Day project designed to improve the physical state of the school is set for May 23. Contributions are being sought to focus on its general fix-up needs but specifically to address the renovation efforts and the rebuilding of a driveway and walkway into one structure, which has deteriorated over the years.
Whenever it rains, this area becomes soggy and slippery and there is water pile-up at sections, forcing the children to seek alternative paths which, too, often turn out to be treacherous.
“What we need is a new school,” Acting Principal Hyacinth Plummer told the Sunday Observer. “But for now there are certain things that need to be fixed, among them the road leading to the entrance; the roof is a problem, as whenever it rains… problems… it leaks badly, and because the school is so close to the sea, a lot of rust takes place.
Plummer, responding to a Sunday Observer query regarding whether or not there were concrete plans to build a new school, said she had heard that talk over the 12 years she has been at the institution but nothing official has been brought to her attention.
The Labour Day effort needs 66 bags of cement as well as other building materials. So far, one pledge has come from President of local charity, Icons of Annotto Bay, Wyatt “Spur” Williams who has committed to providing a load of sand, tools used in the process, and workmen for the project.
School officials are hoping that other contributors will step forward in the days leading up to Labour Day, to make the event worthwhile.
Plummer also told the Sunday Observer that the facility is in dire need of a perimeter fence to bolster the school’s security.
“Perimeter fencing is absent. People drive on the compound; animals roam the property, mentally ill people too. Anything can happen as there is no proper security system in place,” she said of the 72-year-old school.
Two individuals who are from Robin’s Bay originally, when contacted by the Sunday Observer, said they would volunteer to labour on May 23 but expressed greater concern about the state of the community itself, known as one of St Mary’s key fishing villages and low-profile tourism centre.
“From I was living in Robin’s Bay in the 1970s there was talk of a comprehensive plan to develop the community and turn it into a tourist town, but I found out that all of that was just talk,” one said while asking that his name be kept out of this article. “From the 1970s Robin’s Bay has always been a community that strongly supports the PNP [People’s National Party], and it was believed that because of that powerful support, doing things like building a new school; having well-paved roads; attracting investors to build more hotels like Strawberry Fields, Robin’s Bay Village and Beach Resort; and leading to the creation of jobs for people in the community and outside of it, would have been achieved.”
The community is represented in the House of Representatives by veteran medical practitioner Dr Morais Guy. Parochially, an eye is being kept on the community by mayor of Port Maria, Richard Creary, following the recent death of Lincoln Dixon, who had served as councillor for the Islington Division in the St Mary Municipal Corporation, in which Robin’s Bay falls.
Another ‘born-a-Robin’s Bay’ individual said that an effort ought to have been made to reach out to Sir Patrick whose “powerful influence” could be used to excite some in the private sector to donate generously to the school and, by extension, invest in tourism and fishing by inviting those with the capital to so assist.
“I know of when Mr Allen was the head teacher, and now that he is the governor general maybe the people in charge should try and link up with him to at least rescue the school that he once headed,” the individual stated.
Sir Patrick, 72, who became governor general in February 2009, has a rich history of education in St Mary. He first taught at Water Valley Primary, which he left to take up the job of principal of Robin’s Bay Primary. He moved next to the larger Hillside Primary as the 1980s approached, also as principal, and then served in a similar capacity at Seventh-day Adventist institution Port Maria High School from 1981 to 1983, before leaving for Seventh-day Adventist-run Andrews University in Michigan, United States, where he read for a bachelor’s degree in history and religion, a master’s degree in systematic theology, and years later a PhD in education administration and supervision.
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