Beacon of the day | Westmoreland boy completes primary school despite big battle with sickle cell

Jordane McLeod would be a strong contender if there were an award for perseverance in the Primary Exit Profile (PEP), which is used to place students in secondary schools on the island.

He struggles with sickle cell disease, and ended up missing a number of classes – sometimes due to hospitalization.

On one occasion last year – for example, Jordane contracted dengue fever, which, along with the sickle cell, left him admitted to Savanna-la-Mar Hospital and later to the University Hospital of the West Indies.

His teacher at Savanna-la-Mar Primary School in Westmoreland, Sherine James Tennant, told The Beacon: “Jordane McLeod battled sickle cell disease throughout his entire school life. He was hospitalized for lengthy periods, but that did not stop him from working hard to catch up with his peers and to perform better than most of them.”

Jordane was placed at his second choice of secondary school – Frome Technical High.

However, he has secured a transfer to his first choice – Manning’s School, where one of his parents is a teacher.

His father, Oneal McLeod, said: “We have to try and be very protective of him since his situation causes him to be very susceptible to other sicknesses – and that is the reason for transferring him to Manning’s School where one of his parents teaches.”

The father stated that his son, having missed several Grade Five classes due to illness, was hoping for a big comeback in PEP in Grade Six.

However, most of the Grade Six assessments were scrapped due to the sudden closure of schools, caused by the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

The education ministry, in arriving at final grades, resorted to using students’ Grades Four and Five scores – in addition to the one subject they were able to complete in Grade Six before schools closed.

That did not work in Jordane’s favour, his father explained. “During my son’s Grade Five school year, he was in and out of the hospital due to his illness. I was very confident that, if COVID-19 did not hinder [most of] the Grade Six aspects of PEP, he would have done far better than he did in Grade Five.”

Meanwhile, Jordane, who attained Mastery of the Literacy and Numeracy components of PEP in Grade Four, is happy that the transfer to Manning’s has been approved.

“I feel bad knowing that most of the things normal kids can do I am unable to do…” he told The Beacon. “I will try to work harder, maintain a good conduct, and also get involved in small activities [in high school].”

The 12-year-old intends to become a pediatrician or a cartoonist.

He, prior to being enrolled at Savanna-la-Mar Primary School, attended Grange Hill Primary where he was a prefect and a peer counsellor.

His father explained that, over the years, he and his wife Donna McLeod have had to learn about sickle cell disease in order to effectively monitor their son.

“This experience has been a very difficult one for him and for us as parents. There have been many sleepless nights for us, and sometimes we have to operate on a shift basis as it relates to attending to him when there is a crisis at home or at the hospital,” Mr. McLeod said.

He continued: “Our son’s life is not like any normal child, as extreme climate – cold or hot, or too much physical activity triggers a crisis situation. As parents, we have learnt so much as it relates to sickle cell disease. Since there is no cure, constant monitoring is of utmost importance.”

By Horace Mills, Journalist


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