School-gate vendors anxious for face-to-face classes

August 17, 2021
School-gate vendor Adassa Ross sorts through her wares.
School-gate vendor Adassa Ross sorts through her wares.

Michelle Whyte, a vendor who operates in front of the Pembroke Hall Primary School in St Andrew, says she has been living a nightmare since the closure of in-person classes in March 2020.

"When it closed down and the Government announced two weeks, I thought it was just gonna be two weeks, or maybe three or four but I never dreamed it would be this long," she said.

Whyte says selling snacks and other wares to teachers and students has been her sole source of income for more than 15 years. "A it me use send me kids to school, pay me bills, put me daughter through university," she said.

Since the switch to online learning, Whyte and many others have lost their financial freedom. Agatha Pettigrew, who vends in front of the Jose Marti Technical High School in St Catherine, has had to depend on her children for support.


"It used to be me main hustling, enuh, but you see afta school did lock fi the two weeks and me did just deh home nah do nothing, me did affi find other way fi support meself and a suh comes mi pikney dem start help me more," Pettigrew told THE STAR. The 70-year-old has been selling snacks and other items in front of the school for more than 30 years.

With Jamaica last week reporting 3,086 new cases, the resumption of face-to-face classes in September seems unlikely.

"Honestly, I don't feel like it gonna open for September 6. When Bro Gad (Prime Minister Andrew Holness) make the announcement seh open back entertainment, I was like 'No not yet'. Them shoulda give it some time! Me did know once it get loose from dem time deh the number dem did a spike up," said Whyte. "We're talking 'bout our children, enuh, the future! And without education we are nothing. Remember, enuh, is not everybody coping well online. Mi have a daughter in high school and when the Government did call them back for the couple a weeks, she seh 'Mommy, weh me learn inah the couple of weeks face-to-face me nuh learn that fi the entire time online'."

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