By Carlena Knight
A clarion call has been made by one Grays Green resident who is requesting that the St. John’s Magistrate’s Court be relocated, and the complex in which it currently resides be turned over to the people of the community.
The St. John’s Magistrates’ Court officially began sittings at the Grays Green Community Centre two years ago in April, after being moved there temporarily due to the unsanitary working conditions at the High Street building.
Plans were outlined for repairs to begin on the High Street structure, and even the Minister of Works Lennox Weston, in July of this year, provided an update stating that repairs would begin in the “coming weeks.”
But the one-man protestor, Jason Shaw, told this newsroom that the time has come for something to be done as the children of the area who may not have a device or access to internet for their classes are being left behind.
“Well, I just figured that it is time that the Magistrate’s Court be relocated. With the advent of corona, we are all aware that inter-face school learning is not happening much, and I am from a village, a constituency called Grays Green–Grays Farm, Green Bay, Cooks Hill, Hatton, Five Islands – where we have a lot of underprivileged and unfortunate children, and it is not by choice really, the children have no say in this, so, we are saying what happens, if this face-to-face learning doesn’t happen for the next year and our children do not have the devices or internet how do they learn?” Shaw asked.
“So, I am saying that if I get a piece of this pie, a little space here where the Magistrate’s Court is now occupying, we can outfit it with a few devices, some tablets, some computers, some laptops and our children can come during the day and access their google classrooms. All I am saying, I do not wish to have the children of this area left behind,” Shaw said.
He conceded that even if the Magistrate’s Court cannot be moved, some sort of compromise can be made for a specific area on the newly-built grounds for the students.
“It’s nothing big I am asking, just a little space. It’s a three-face building. You have the community centre, you have the sporting complex and the parking lot. I will bend over backwards just to even accept the parking lot as the open space given to us, so that the children of this area who do not have a computer at home, who do not have internet can still have the opportunity to learn. That’s all I am asking, for somebody to hear me out, hear the plight, hear the cry of the children within the area because they want an education. If there is no face-to-face learning and they do not have a computer, how will they learn?” he asked.
“I am reaching out to all the ears that can hear me; bail us out, free us up.”
Shaw mentioned that the time has come for the St John’s Rural West constituency to not be left behind while other areas are taking the necessary measures to ensure the students in their area who may not have the means at home can still have the opportunity to learn.
He stated that he will continue this fight until something is done.
“Samantha Marshall recently opened up her community centre on the southern end of the island. Daryll Matthew before her, advised his constituents who are without a device or internet to join him at his centre and access an education. But where are we?” he asked.
“We are still in the toddler stages, and I am saying we will have it no more. If it takes every day, I will be here every day, right here, until the ears hear me,” Shaw added.
This latest protest is not the first push-back from villagers concerning the complex. In 2019, when the news first broke that the complex would temporarily house the St. John’s Magistrate’s Court, many from the Grays Green area public shared their outrage and displeasure over the move.
Even the former PM and representative of the area, Baldwin Spencer, called in September 2020 for the St John’s Magistrates’ Court to be moved from the Gray’s Green Community Centre, so that the facility could be utilised for its intended purpose.
Tensions again flared during a meeting at the centre between the St John’s Rural West constituency representative, Londell Benjamin, community activists, and the proprietor of Sk8 Antigua, who has been using the venue as a skate rink.