When the students at the Jonathan Grant High School in Spanish Town, St Catherine, started the new school year in September, there was a marked difference in the surroundings at their school. Thanks to much lobbying by the Principal, Dr. Oniel Ankle; the Parent Teachers Association; and members of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA) Junior Club, a sidewalk was built outside of the school, which now provides the students with a safer option than using the roadway.
The new sidewalk extends from the rear to the front gate of the school; and beyond the school compound towards the Spanish Town business district, an area traversed by the majority of students attending the institution.
Dr. Ankle said that prior to the sidewalk being built, students were forced to use the roadway to access the school compound, or make their way to the Spanish Town City Center. “The shift “A” students 7-9, number 1,500. And, when these students take to the road, they represent serious pedestrian traffic; and, they did not have a safe place to walk. I feared what would happen one day,” he explained.
Of concern were errant mini bus drivers who often raced along the roadway, despite the presence of students on the road; and, as Mr Ankle noted, “Some students have been knocked down in the past.”
Tracy Ann Hall, Automotive Technology Instructor and JAA Junior Club Liaison teacher, assisted the students to draft a document for the construction of the sidewalk, with a proposed design.
“We wrote the proposal with the aim to present it to the Parish Council, the Ministry of Education and the National Works Agency; and, the students included a design of their concept for the sidewalk,” she said.
The JAA Junior Club, which was formed at the school a year ago, identified the construction of a sidewalk as one of its major projects, because it was cited as a major road safety hazard.
“It means a lot to the students, because they now recognise that they can influence change in their community and surroundings,” Miss Hall acknowledged, adding that “The project has empowered the students to assist in making changes in their community.”
Collin McKenzie, Treasurer and founding member of the club, assisted his fellow club members to prepare the proposal for the project and feels rewarded by the experience.
“Working on the project was fun, and I am pleased that our efforts have resulted in this kind of change for the entire school population,” he said.
Dr. Ankle has emphasized that since the construction of the sidewalk, “Students have been educated about how to use it and to remain safe on the roadway to and from school.”
Duane Ellis, General Manager of the Jamaica Automobile Association (JAA), commended the work of the JAA Junior club members at the school, “It is admirable, as it embodies the main objective of the clubs, which is to get young people involved in road safety as stakeholders, who are also able to provide solutions.”
“This project falls within the broader mandate of the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety, which seeks to improve road user behavior as part of its goal to halve global road user deaths by 2020,” Mr Ellis pointed out.
Miss Hall says the next phase of the sidewalk project will be beautification, as the JAA club members, will be seeking the help of the Forestry Department to assist them to add plants along the sidewalk.
JAA Junior Clubs, which have now been established in more than 53 high schools across the island, are an initiative of the JAA, in collaboration with the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation, JN General Insurance (JNGI) Company Limited, The Ministry of Education, the FIA Foundation and the FIA Road Safety Grant Programme.