by Kimberley Cummins
Hopeless is the way Kathy-Ann Taylor feels.
Add to that lost, dejected and forgotten.
“What is a mother to do when she has done her best to help her child?” This is the question she repeatedly asked herself as she sat in the doorway of her Jackson, St. Michael home this afternoon to speak with Barbados TODAY.
The mother of four was referring to her 15-year-old son Tafari, who is now a ward of the Government Industrial School.
At the tender age of six years, after exhibiting behavioural issues, he was taken to the Psychiatric Hospital where he was evaluated and diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. In addition, Tafari, and his twin brother, Tasim, were deemed to be “slow” by the principal at the primary school they attended so they were not allowed to sit the Common Entrance Exam.
As a result, Tasim was sent to the Alma Parris Memorial School and Tafari the Learning Centre. There Tafari spent almost a term, his mother said, stating that although the principal tried her best with him he was expelled because of an obscene image he drew of himself.
One year later, after much effort and anguish trying to meet with a Ministry of Education official on the matter, the meeting finally took place but the alternative school suggested for him to attend was The Ann Hill School.
“They said to me his options of schools were very limited and the only place they could send him was The Ann Hill School. It is a school for anybody, but for me Tafari didn’t want sending to Ann Hill because he is not that slow.
I wasn’t please about it, but I wanted my child in school so I let him go.
“He lasted maybe three weeks, when he get to Ann Hill. Yes, they had one or two complaints about him but the biggest complaint was about something similar to what happened at the Learning Centre,” she said. At Ann Hill, because of the ADHD, Tafari was assigned to a psychologist. One day, she explained, while in a session with him the psychologist stepped out of the room, leaving him alone. Upon return she found him fidgeting with something behind his desk, when questioned about what he was doing he refused to reply. So she went over to him and discovered he was masturbating, his mother recalled.
She said he was thrown out of the school at 12 years old.†That was three years ago and he has not stepped into a classroom once since then.
“I tell so many people about this and they keep asking, ‘Why he ain’t in school? Why you don’t do something about it?’ But I am trying. I know he did some wrong things but my child need help, prison can’t help he,” she said with water filling her eyes.
“To me [the Ministry of Education] ain’t doing nothing about it. They saying there is a special school coming in September for children like him who pose a lot of problems, but in September he will be almost 16 and that would be the first time he going to school in years.
“Since my child has been home he is finding himself in problems. He is doing things he ain’t supposed to do. He ain’t have nothing to do and the fastest thing they could do is send him to Dodds.
“But his probation officer is working hard for him ’cause it is like he can see that he needs help, he don’t deserve to be in Dodds. I need my child to get some kind of schooling like anybody else. I beg [the Ministry of Education] … to send he to skills training since they say they don’t have a school for him, but they say he can’t because he is not 16.
“He is too young to be out of school but still he is to young to go to skills training, so what can I do?” she asked.†
With the first smile on her face since the start of the interview, she described him as a very talented child who liked art, plumbing and carpentry. “He does pick down a dog pen and put it back up and he always tell me he want to be an architect. I am a single mummy and if I had money I would at least send he to private school or some tutoring.
‘Put him in school’
“I would do it but it does really be hard for me because I don’t be getting no help from nobody else. But the main help I would like is just for him to be in a school – some kind of school. To me he does show interest that he would read and learn but I got to go work so I can’t stay home with he all the time.
“I can’t watch he all the time. I would go work, leave he at home but because he ain’t got nothing to do when one of he friends come and shout he, he does disappear.
“He want some positive help. He does be home and he does fret sometimes that I ain’t getting he in no school, but I have to say ‘Tafari, I trying’. Sometimes he would fret and grumble that everybody gine school and he is the only body that got to be home.
“He would like to go school and I know if he would get into one he would be happy and I believe he would try he best to do what is right to succeed. He just need an opportunity, but he hasn’t been getting a chance. Everybody does just outcast he and say he is a hard ears child and that he gine not change,” said Taylor, who pointed out she has never been taken before the court for not sending him to school.
Tafari currently takes medication for his hyperactivity and the mother said, he sometimes refused to take the medicine because he complained it made him feel too “slow”.
But whenever he doesn’t take the pills, she complained, he becomes impulsive and that is when he gets into trouble. However, she said she believes if he accepted in a programme to learn a skill, it would fill the void he feels when he is on the medicine and wold be less likely to refuse to take it. firstname.lastname@example.org††