A 16-year-old boy stood among a group of vendors who were fuming this week over the demolition of their handcarts and goods by Municipal police in Linstead, St. Catherine.
The vendors, adamant that their profession is being frowned on, pointed out the teen, Oshane Ellis – better known as ‘Omar’, as a good example of vending at work.
Oshane, whose mother died of natural cause in 2018, works with the vendors after school on weekdays and on Saturdays mainly to send himself to school.
He is almost never absent from classes at McGrath High.
“School is very important to me; I love it more than I love market. My grandmother never mek mi absent from school,” said the ninth grader.
He added: “Vending provides me with the resources I need to go to school.”
Oshane, who was the top male student at Rosemount Primary School in GSAT Mathematics in 2017, said he is still doing ‘fine’ academically.
He wants to become a teacher or a businessman.
He is now trying to raise funds to build a coop to raise chickens – something that he said would help him to better finance his schooling.
Oshane told The Beacon that he has been vending since the death of his mother Nicole Wilson, who was his main breadwinner. He said he has not seen or heard from his father since August last year.
“Mi mother pass on and mi nuh know weh mi father deh. So, mi sell with someone and dem give mi money fi goh school,” he said, adding that the vendors treat him like a little brother.
Oshane, who lives walking distance from Linstead Market, reasoned that vending also keeps him out of trouble.
He actually has advice for other teens who choose crime over work: “Try get help from somebody – yuh family. Try start up a little business and turn it into a big one to buy yuh car and house instead yuh goh rob people.”
Oshane, his 11-year-old brother, and 10-year-old sister live with their maternal grandmother, Yvonne Briscoe. In fact, they have been residing with her since they were babies.
The grandmother stated that her late daughter who lived and worked in St. Mary, used to cover her children’s financial needs. Her death has left a huge void.
The grandmother, who sells groceries at her home to eke out a living, said she spent her savings in relation to her daughter’s illness and death.
She is struggling not only to cover rent and utility bills, but to also keep a promise made to her late daughter.
“When my daughter sick, she told me ‘Mommy I don’t want you to give my children away to anybody; I want you to keep them‘. I promised her that I will take care of them,” the grandmother told The Beacon.
She said she was not aware that Oshane was vending until a church sister dropped the bombshell.
The grandmother was minded to stop him, but persons convinced her to allow him to continue doing light work with the vendors – a far better choice than to become involved in criminality.
The grandmother, who noted that the children are on the government’s welfare programme dubbed PATH, said the funds received are not enough to cover the children’s financial needs.
She tries to spend frugally, and is banking on education.
“I want the best for my grandchildren – especially when it comes to education, because I believe in education,” she told The Beacon, adding that she and the children attend church regularly. In fact, Oshane was baptized.
By Horace Mills, Journalist
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