My Xmas wish is to attend school - Learning institutions unable to accept disabled girl
While other children her age are busy wishing for gifts this Christmas, 14-year-old Alia Plummer, who is confined to a wheelchair, wishes she could attend school, as she has been at home since passing her Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in 2014.
She could not find a high school in St James to accommodate her wheelchair.
For Alia's mother, Monica Plummer, the situation has been a heart-rending one. "Sometimes, she says she want to go to school, and it makes me feel down. Sometimes, she would say, 'Imagine, children who do GSAT after me a go school, and me not going,'" Plummer said.
Alia was born with club feet (a condition in which the feet curve upwards) and a deformed back. She underwent five surgeries and spent multiple weeks in hospital in an effort to correct her disabilities, but to no avail, so she is dependent on the wheelchair to get around.
Even after spending a significant part of her GSAT preparation period at hospital, Alia, who attended the Sunderland Primary School, managed to be placed at Maldon Comprehensive High School.
However, she was not able to take her place at the school because it cannot accommodate her wheelchair.
Additionally, the school is very far from home and it would be difficult to take multiple public taxis with the chair.
Alia's family has been trying desperately to get her into a school, but to no avail.
"We went to the Ministry [of Education], and they said they were going to try, but then they told us they couldn't find any school to accommodate her wheelchair."
Director of Communications at the Ministry, Byron Buckley, said, "We will make contact with the family shortly, with the view of sending her to the Fidel Castro Campus of the Anchovy High School in January. It is located in Montpelier, and equipped with ramp access."
Even with this development, attending school will still pose a challenge for Alia, as the Fidel Castro Campus is about 15 miles from home, and would require two taxis to get there.
"I am a chicken farmer and I don't get much from it. Her father is a taxi operator, but he is chartered by some people. That's how he earns his money so he can't really stop everyday to carry her so far," Plummer explained.
Plummer said she would appreciate assistance in sending Alia to school in January as it is Alia's dream to go back to school.
"Some people might not have the patience to assist her when she takes public transportation, so I would be glad if I could afford to charter a special taxi for her," Plummer explained.
Alia said she was happy to hear that they have found a school to accommodate her, but her joy was overshadowed by the cloud of uncertainty which surrounds her transportation to and from school.
Anyone who wishes to help Alia realise her dream of going back to school, and studying to become a paediatrician can donate to the family's Jamaica National (JN) account, 391693301.