Several children are singing the praises of a makeshift classroom created by sister teachers in the hills of Bull Bay, St Andrew, to release them from the frustrations of online schooling.
Kimberlee Woods and Karen Wright are at the heart of the initiative, dubbed Kimmy’s School of Leaders (KSL), which was born out of Woods’ love for teaching and her success in assisting her daughter to adapt to life outside of regular schooling, which she believed could help other students who have not yet been able to return to their classrooms due to COVID-19 restrictions as some institutions remain shuttered.
“When everyone stopped going to school, I had my daughter at home and I realised that I helped my daughter so well that she was so far ahead of her class and age group. I started teaching family members, neighbours and people from down the road, so each one tell one and we had a lot of children passing through from time to time,” Woods said.
Motivated to help these youngsters learn to read and write and become become achievers, the sisters have thrown out all furniture and retrofitted their living room to create a classroom, while adding an additional room for boarding for those who have to travel the distance.
“We went to a school that was changing out furniture,” Woods said, pointing to how they were able to acquire furniture for their classroom.
The students also have to wear their uniforms and masks to school.
“We cater to students who are in early childhood, primary and high school from communities like Tivoli Gardens, Waterhouse and Jungle (Arnett Gardens),” Wright told The Gleaner.
Most of the students were struggling with online learning, and many of those with tablets could not read or lacked a reliable Internet connections via Wi-Fi or data plans to log on to online classes.
“The online class nuh really help them, especially with reading. Being online is one thing, but can’t read what is online is another thing,” Wright pointed out.
The students say they have been making progress since enrolling in the sisters’ classes.
“Coming here, I have learnt a lot. I can’t really learn online and they actually help me and I learn a lot. I feel like I get smarter being in this classroom than being online,” 12-year-old Ashanti Miller told The Gleaner.
Tavia Castel, 10, was also delighted with what she has been able to grasp.
“A lot of things that I never done in my life, I do it over here and learn how to read, learn how to spell, learn how to do algebra,” she said. “KSL school is actually good.”
“Since I came over here, Aunty Kim started to teach me how to read, but I didn’t get it very well. She teach me a little more since I came over here, and my daddy let me stay over here. Aunty Kim teach me how to read, spell and do all the subjects,” Sashane Stewart said.
Eight-year-old Carian Kadejah Henry said: “When I went to online school, it wasn’t teaching me well and she (Aunty Kim) said that I can do it over here. After school, what I didn’t understand, she helped me with.”
The sisters also rely on Wi-Fi connectivity, which they lament is not stable enough due to their location and frequent weather events.
More than 40 students have benefited from KSL, and on any given day, at least 12 students on location, under the guidance of Wright and Woods, who have minimal to no formal training in teaching.
“Well, I have always liked teaching because from I was little coming up, me always be the teacher,” said Woods, noting that after seeing her daughter’s progress, she took another child under her wings.
“I said this was my project and I kept her from weekends until I made her stay and teach her. Right now, she is a top reader,” she said proudly.
The pair aim to develop the children into rounded individuals, teaching them mathematics, English, Spanish and the performing arts, including dancing.
“For me, I am normally teaching at YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association),” said Wright. “I am the performing arts director there, so I am normally around kids and teaching. This is just a different level now, not performing arts but on a different scale; they still do performing arts because we have a dance team.”
The duo noted that the parents are very appreciative and supportive of their efforts.
“They support the children. They support us. From time to time, we have activities for them … and we celebrate everybody’s birthday,” Wright said.
The sisters are asking anyone wishing to assist with items such as a blackboard or whiteboard, tablets, toiletries, hand soap, sanitisers and masks to contact them at (876) 370-2206.