KINGSTON – A mother, who has been left in distress, is demanding that Unity Primary School in Strathbogie, Westmoreland, cover her son’s medical bills after an incident at the school has left him blind in his right eye.
Kemola Heaven, the mother of grade two student Odane Martin, speaking with the Jamaica Observer yesterday, said that she has been “reduced to nothing” after sending a healthy child to school and having him return disabled.
The woman, who is a domestic worker, recalled that on September 12 she received a shocking phone call from a teacher at the school informing her that her son had been injured and that she needed to pick him up.
She said when she arrived at the school she saw her son sitting at the entrance visibly in pain.
Describing what she saw as “neglectful”, she said she asked to see the principal, but was denied access to the school compound by a security guard, who, at the time, was not aware that she was a parent.
Shortly after identifying herself, Heaven said she was allowed onto the compound, but waited in vain to see the principal before leaving. She was told that the principal was busy.
The mother told the Observer that she returned to the school sometime after and was given a cheque for $20,000 from the principal to cover Odane’s medical bills.
But she said she has so far spent in excess of $100,000 on doctor’s visits, medication and hospital stays for her seven-year-old son, who was injured when a child he was standing behind frantically threw a stick in his direction when the “break bell” rang.
The principal, she said, informed her that she would speak to the chairman of the school board, who later advised Heaven that she would have to submit a medical report before they could assist her.
Frustrated, she said that she never returned to the school, arguing that she would have to pay out of pocket in order to get such a report. This was money she said she did not have.
Odane is reported to have spent just over a month in hospital and underwent surgery before he was released. He is scheduled to do a another procedure and will have to wear glasses to “protect his left eye from straining”.
“Not even a phone call, Miss, to find out about mi son. From dem tell mi dat it’s just me and Father God. I just keep spending, spending, spending. Right now mi son have a next surgery fi do pon him eye and not even a phone call from the school,” Heaven disclosed.
The child has been absent from school since his injury.
“Is when it go on Facebook dem call me today (yesterday) — a lady from the school, who say she is counsellor on di ‘blue shift’ that my son was on. She said she was calling to intervene and find out how he was doing, and I told her what took place. She said she was hearing about it for the first time,” Heaven said.
She added that Odane has since indicated that he does not want to return to the school, noting that he does not want to get hurt again.
“Mi nuh know wah mi a go do, Miss,” said Heaven to the Observer, “mi need some help fi send him go one different school, because him gone right back down. Mi naah tell no lie pon him father, him help when him have it, but him nuh have it now. Right now mi nuh know wah fi tell him. Him call and a ask if him blind fi true and mi nuh know wah fi tell him. Mi keep on a tell him seh mi nuh know, but mi know, yuh understand?
“Right now di school haffi go try help me. Dem haffi go try help mi out wid him. A me alone, Miss; right now mi drain out, not even fare mi cyaan find fi carry him go MoBay [Cornwall Regional Hospital]. When mi look pon mi likkle boy wid one eye yuh know how mi feel? Mi feel very bad, and not even a phone call fi ask if him alright. Dem haffi go help mi,” the mother stressed.
The Observer was unable to reach the school’s principal or board chairman for a comment. Contact was made with Reverend Carlton Wilson, who is listed as the school’s board chair in a report by the National Education Inspectorate, but he advised that he no longer serves the board.
The Ministry of Education’s procedural manual for treating with critical incidents in schools outlines that immediately following the occurrence of an incident/accident on school premises, the matter must be reported to the principal or to his/her designate.
The manual further explains that a report is to be prepared and submitted by the principal or his/her designate to the Ministry of Education’s Regional Office (Supervisory Officer). The Regional Office then submits to the deputy chief education officer for schools’ operations, who submits to the Legal Unit of the Ministry of Education. The Legal Unit will then submit, on behalf of the permanent secretary, an instruction file to the Attorney General’s Chambers for a ruling on liability.