When schools reopen in a few weeks’ time, some 830 children between the ages of 5 and 12 years at Linden will be at a loss. Their school—the One Mile Primary at One Mile Wismar, Linden—is no more. It was razed, according to reports, by arsonists who claimed to be part of ‘the struggle.’
The alleged arsonists have been caught, reports said, and handed over to the police. However, although it is entirely likely that the police could have the alleged perpetrators charged and placed before the court as early as possible, maybe they shouldn’t be too hasty in doing this.
One way of ensuring they have the right men before laying charges would be to measure their mental capacities and have them evaluated for psychosis. Surely, only a mindless or mentally ill person would deliberately burn down a school. And in addition to being intellectually or mentally challenged, the arsonist/s are more than likely not parents. It is hard to fathom a parent destroying a school.
Finding places for 830 children to attend their classes will be no easy task come September 3. The destruction of the Sacred Heart Primary School by fire on Christmas Day 2004, caused endless confusion when school reopened in January 2005 and this was in Georgetown where there were many other primary schools to which the displaced children could attend. There are, obviously, fewer schools at Linden.
But even if there were enough schools, placement is not the end of the matter. Arrangements will also have to be made for double sessions, the placement of teachers; the reconstruction of school records, reports and so on; the replacement of texts and other books as well.
Meanwhile, if the pupils at the primary schools in the catchment area can drum up any feeling beyond the trauma they must be currently experiencing given the situation in Linden, it will likely be resentment towards the newcomers for taking up time and space in their school. On the other hand, the displaced students will be grieving over the loss of their school in addition to being traumatised over the violence, friction and tension they have been living in for the past month almost.
It is bad enough that children in Linden have not had much of an August holiday. It was not long after school closed that 3 men were killed and more than a dozen people—mothers and fathers—injured on July 18, the first day of the protests. It has all gone downhill since then. It is outrageous that 830 children have lost their school, and not by accident.
What is worse is that this has happened at a time when the education situation in the country is particularly difficult. Academically, there has been an ongoing slouch. The results of this year’s national assessment exam where private primary schools excelled and there was an obvious dependence on extra lessons were a clear sign of this. The destruction of a school in such a climate signals a lack of concern for what ought to be, for all of us, a serious situation.
The school building can be replaced; this will be necessary at some point. But a school is more than a building, it’s a community of people—children and adults—sharing a familiar space. They will not all get along all of the time; there will be bad eggs and black sheep among them; there will be teachers who are loved and others who are disliked, but despite all that a school offers a community that can rarely be found elsewhere. And this is what 830 children would have lost, along with their building and records. Beyond being outrageous, it is indescribably sad that in the apparent scoring of points and politicking the children seem to have been forgotten.