I stepped out of Brian (Buju) Johnson’s taxi and nodded at the security guard at the gates of my old school, Wismar Christianburg Multilateral Secondary. September 2012 sun glared down on me.
I was overwhelmed by nostalgia mixed with the uncertainty of what to expect. After receiving permission from someone in the headteacher’s office, I headed to the main building.
As I walked along the concrete walkway to the entrance of the main building, I stopped momentarily and closed my eyes. On my left was the basketball court. In the distant memory of my early teenage years, I relived the moments of watching Roy Peters, Marlon Britton, Goofy George and the rest of the creme de la creme of that institution of learning noisily jostling each other for a ball that constantly entered a hoop much to the rejoicing of excited onlookers.
I proceeded up the first flight of stairs and then to the second, where I turned left and headed to my class,1A. As I passed many students liming in the corridors, I thought of a distant yesterday where everything was young and new.
I stood at the doorway of the teacherless classroom and looked beyond the many children occupying it, into a yesterday where Judy Griffith, Felicity Crawford, Harold Bascom, Lennox Thom and other teachers moulded us.
I looked beyond the reality before me of children staring at what appeared to be an overseas based individual in dark glasses questioningly, and saw myself, Tyrone Alexander, Trevor White, Lauren Schultz, Petal Aprel Daw, Arlene Samsair-Mckenzie, Sherwyn Henry, Godwin Caesar and the rest of us chatting away.
I waved and said hello to the students and hurried to exit the building, only to glance at the railing where Howard Beaton had nearly dropped a girl to her death as a result of a jealous fit.
My next stop was the auditorium. That place where the entire school gathered to listen to Simone Noble sing, ‘The Greatest Love Of All’, and where I would spend the entire time trying to catch the eyes of Teresa Narine.
I stepped inside the auditorium and froze! Time had taken its toll. It appeared as though it had aged untouched by the hands of refurbishment. It was unfit to house sheep and goats. My heart sank.
The plaque of outstanding students was no longer there. No Wayne Josiah’s name engraved in gold to behold. I walked through the empty ruins to the distant sound of Noble’s voice in my head. ‘I believe the children are the future teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside, give them a sense of pride to make it easier..’
The toilet facility in the auditorium was non functional; an apparent storeroom of junk. Broken taps and broken everything. I was heartbroken.
The beauty of my memories of that time, brutally assaulted by the tragic circumstances of the present.
I got into my taxi, a despondent and dejected man, and told Buju to take me to Wismar Hill Primary School.
That school looked new. It is a beautiful school with two magnificent looking buildings.
The headteacher Mrs Web politely granted me permission to tour its grounds. I walked up to my old class almost hoping to see Donna McAlister or Miss Carr but was greeted by the reality of a shocking sight of a classroom overpopulated by children who appeared permanently uncomfortable by the excessive heat. Extra fans were in the classroom but it was so packed beyond capacity, the body heat could make one ill.
The school had to house the children of One Mile Primary which was destroyed by fire during the Linden Struggle.
Tonight, as I write this little note to you, I think of the many overseas visitors who became active patrons of Linden Town Week 2014. I am told more than a thousand overseas-based Guyanese were a part of the town’s birthday.
I am told that each would have spent in excess of US$500 on drinks, food, condoms and hotel rooms, during the week-long festivities.
I am told that people got so drunk that they slept on car bonnets and in car trunks.
The millions that were squandered in senseless jamboree would inevitably be in the coffers of Banks DIH, Dem Rum etc.
The children are still packed like sardines in classrooms and One Mile Primary is yet to be rebuilt.
Don’t cuss me when I talk about mixed up priorities. Let us re-intensify the drive to see One Mile Primary speedily rebuilt.
Somewhere in the auditorium of my yesterday a fine voice sang, ‘the greatest love of all is easy to achieve, learning to love yourself is the greatest love of all.’