The Cumaca Roman Catholic School under the title of Our Lady of The Rosary is situated in the village of Cumaca nestled in the Northern Range. This village is approximately 19 km (12 miles) from Valencia. It takes a driver one and a half hours to get to the school.
The school, originally built in 1946, had walls of mud and a carat shed roof. It was rebuilt in 1964 and now has brick walls and a galvanize roof. This school is used as a Community Centre and a chapel. It is one of the communities attached to the Santa Rosa Parish in Arima.
The school has a population of 20 registered pupils but an average of 12 students attend school regularly. The principal, Ann Pierre-Mitchell, taught at the school for 10 years but was promoted to Upper Guaico RC School in 2009 as principal. In September 2010, she was asked to return to Cumaca to hold the fort as there was no female member on staff at this co-educational institution after the retirement of the last principal and the removal of the school clerk. Cumaca is familiar territory for Mrs Mitchell. The villagers, parents and students are very happy to welcome her back in the village so that the children will get the love, care and attention they deserve. Since she has taken up the post, she has made a significant impact on the lives of the students and villagers. She did this while she was a teacher but it is more pronounced now she is the administrator.
In Cumaca there is no pipe-borne water, no electricity, no telephone system – cellular phones do not work in the area where the school is situated. Public transport does not exist. The principal uses her four-wheel drive vehicle to transport the two teachers – Michael Baptiste, Stephen John, some students and the school meals – breakfast and lunch. For electricity, the school uses a solar system, which is not functioning, and a generator which is very costly to maintain. At certain periods in the day it is turned off so as to preserve gas for use the following day. This results in dark classrooms, very challenging to all on the compound.
Recently, the Trinidad Building & Loan Association donated four LED re-chargeable fluorescent lights. The charge lasts for six hours. The school needs four more of these lights. Are there any other sponsors out there? The staff and students will be happy to hear from you.
The road to Cumaca RC School and of course, to the village is not encouraging to drivers. This is why transportation is very, very difficult, or more accurately non-existent. One villager who has a four-wheel drive vehicle assists some students including his own grandchildren. Other students have to walk a distance of six km to get to school and six km to get home a total of 12 km daily. Because of the very poor condition of the road and lack of transportation, some children of school age – 6, 7, 8, 9 years do not attend school because it is too costly and the nearest school outside the village is over-crowded. When the principal does not go to school because of other commitments, it costs a teacher $200 to hire a car to get to work.
The villagers, the parents of these children, earn their livelihood from agriculture – mainly cassava, dasheen, tannia, plantain and pimentos. These are very costly to transport to the market from the village.
A most memorable and gratifying experience was to see a student conduct the morning devotion which included a decade of the rosary and a hymn. The principal said that it is the practice to rotate this duty among the students. It was a pleasure to see the students join their hands, close their eyes and pray meaningfully. This activity, no doubt, will assist in preparing the students for leadership roles.
The students are well disciplined, well mannered and are eager to learn. There is no violence at this school. During the Religious Education period, Mr Baptiste merged the classes and showed a DVD entitled “He Knows My Name”. The students were able to respond enthusiastically to the questions. They were very pleased with themselves when the teacher praised them when they answered the questions.
Cumaca Roman Catholic School will have a larger school population and improved attendance if the only access road in the village is repaired – that is, potholes are fixed and the road is paved. Public Transportation is needed very urgently. The students and the villagers need to be taken to and from school and in and out of the village.
It is very painful to know that in Trinidad in 2011, there are children who cannot access an education because of very deplorable roads and no form of public transportation. The parents, children and teachers of this village are crying out for help. They need a paved road, pipe-borne water, electricity, a telephone system and public transport. Will someone, anyone – Government, the business community or private citizens – respond to the cries of these villagers and more so to the cries of these children who are our future leaders? – Ruby Nelson – Catholic Education Regional Officer for Eastern Vicariate