Business operator Andrew Morris has made good of a chance he got, albeit coincidentally, to make a lasting impression on 30 young minds.

He explained that, one day, he noticed that someone added him to a group on WhatsApp – a mobile messaging application.

“When I opened the WhatsApp messages, I realized that I was in a classroom of students,” he told The Beacon. “I never exited the group; I just stayed there.”

Morris eventually realized that the students in the group were enrolled at Zion Hill Primary School in St. Mary.

They, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, were doing classes online.

Most of them could not afford data to use more convenient platforms such as Zoom, and so they opted for WhatsApp.

They created a WhatsApp group and called it ‘PEP Steppers’. They used it to prepare for their Primary Exit Profile (PEP), which is used to place students in secondary schools locally.

Morris was impressed.

He explained: “I was amazed that the teachers were so creative because, in the United States, most schools were using Zoom and the kids would be on camera seeing each other and all that. I thought most kids in Jamaica wouldn’t have been able to afford the data to go on Zoom for a 45-minute class and the entire day. So it makes so much sense for them to use WhatsApp.

“The teacher would sometimes do a voice recording and send it to the kids. The kids would do a voice recording and send it back to give their answer or they would give a written answer. They would have their little test online. It was really remarkable and fascinating how, as Jamaicans, we do what we have to do to make it work,” Morris further commented.

He told The Beacon that, close to the end of the school year, he realized that the students were about to sit their final PEP assessment.

He wanted to do something special for them.

He mulled hosting a treat, considering that the students ‘worked hard and live in the rural area’ and probably were often ‘left behind in a lot of things’.

The businessman mentioned his plan to his wife, Jean, who lives with him in the United States.

The couple, born and raised in Jamaica, operates Sam’s Caribbean Marketplace – a grocery store and cafe that specializes in Caribbean goods. It also accepts orders online.

After telling his wife about his plan to treat the students, Morris discovered that his other half actually attended the school – Zion Hill Primary.

“I had no idea,” he said, chuckling.

He also found out that he was added to the WhatsApp study group mistakenly by one of his wife’s cousins-in-law, Millicent Nicholson, who is the vice-principal and Grade Six teacher at Zion Hill Primary.

The educator told The Beacon that she had absolutely no clue that she, in creating the WhatsApp group, had added her husband’s in-law to it.

“I added him (Morris) to my class, not knowing I had done something like that,” she explained. “At the end of the school year, I got a call from him and, when he told me that I had added him to the group, I was surprised.”

The teacher was pleasantly surprised when Morris informed her of his plan to treat all students who were part of the study group.

They all got KFC – a meal they fancy, but don’t often consume due to the cost as well as their rural location. They also got cakes and ice cream.

“The treat was really important, because the students had been going through quite a bit of a hard time with the online learning, and a lot of them had not seen each other for a long time,” the teacher commented. “We were able to give them the treat as a group together, using social distancing and all of that.”

She added that the school, as well as the students who predominantly are from low socio-economic situations, is grateful for contribution made by Mr. Morris and his wife.

“The students were very happy for the treat, and they were very thankful,” added Nicholson, a classroom teacher for 30 years.


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