Wayne Jordan: All in One founder keeps school alive in Beetham

Wayne Jordan inside the Each One Teach One preschool at Beetham Gardens. He has kept teaching children during the pandemic using videos and activity packages. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI
Wayne Jordan inside the Each One Teach One preschool at Beetham Gardens. He has kept teaching children during the pandemic using videos and activity packages. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

Early childhood educator Wayne Jordan has kept the dream of education in the poorer communities of Port of Spain alive through acts of nature, financial and personal difficulties, and now a pandemic.

In recognition of his efforts, on December 14, the Maharishi Institute of Science and Technology of TT gave Jordan an award for his "selflessness and continued dedication" to the children of Port of Spain.

The 62-year-old is the founder of the All In One Child Development Centre and Each One Teach One Special School in Beetham Gardens, on the outskirts of east PoS.

Jordan explained that Each One caters to children who have never been in the school system as well as those with special needs, while All In One is a preschool. He is the principal of Each One and parent outreach facilitator at All in One.

So, for students who did not attend school regularly or for parents who want to keep up to date with their children’s classes he video-recorded his classes and posted them on his Facebook page.

“I like a little drama when I’m teaching to get the student’s attention. Because children have a short attention span you have to be exciting, be happy, you have to have the children wanting to come to school. And that’s a skill I have apparently.”

As a result, when schools closed in March 2020, the transition to online teaching was easy. He made videos of lessons and created weekly packages as some parents were uncomfortable with or could not do live classes online.

Added to the packages were Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) activity packs available in a local newspaper.

“Some parents have literacy problems so there were certain things they could not help their children with especially like, standard one and two work. What I did was one-on-one sessions on WhatsApp video for those students.”

If the children needed extra help, when parents visited his home to collect the teaching packages, he would explain the work to them so they could help their children.

He expressed gratitude to the Rotary Club of Central Port of Spain which provided him with the stationery he needed to make the packages including staple guns, photocopy paper, markers, pencils and more.

He added that the club also makes sure each of his students receives age-appropriate toys at Christmas every year. And together with the Digicel Foundation, the organisations have been financing the students at both schools.

For the new school term, Each One has 22 new students out of 56 children – ages three to 16.

And while he may not believe reopening preschools and primary schools in April is the best idea with the large numbers of new covid19 infections and deaths every day, he is willing to work with the Ministry of Education’s guidelines.

Wayne Jordan reads to Tiwali Jordan, left and Liam Mayhew at the Each One Teach One preschool in Beetham Gardens. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

He said as children learn through play, it would be difficult to stop them from mingling so the first thing he intends to do is teach them the health regulations and get them in the habit of washing and sanitising their hands regularly, social distancing, and coughing or sneezing into the crooks of their elbows.

He plans to separate the students into groups and teach each group on different days so they could keep a safe distance apart so it would not be too stressful for the teachers to monitor them.

Going beyond for people of Beetham

Jordan told Sunday Newsday although his father worked at a bank in San Fernando, as a boy he was a resident of the defunct St Michael’s Home for Boys in Diego Martin for six years as his mother lived in Italy.

There, in 1977, he placed second in the former television show, Scouting for Talent, which spurred his passion for music.

When he left St Michael’s in 1979 he went to work at the Trinidad Union Club in Port of Spain as a waiter. There he met Steve Hosein, the club’s food and beverage manager, who suggested Jordan become his personal assistant and Hosein eventually became his mentor.

“He groomed me, he moulded me, he made sure things happened. He was a mover and shaker. He was an excellent person.”

He later went to Germany where he spent two years while trying to go to Paris to study dance and drama. However, he was deported and, on his return to TT, he had nowhere to stay.

“I ended up living on the Beetham with some inmates who grew up in St Michael’s with me.”

He sang and acted at a theatre in Belmont for a while but he started to notice many school-aged children in the area did not attend school.

“I observed there were so many children that were supposed to be in school running around like crazy. I started asking questions, why they were not in school and I started getting all the sad stories.”

Tiwali Jordan, left, and Liam Mayhew catch up on their reading at the Each One Teach One preschool. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

Their stories made him think about those deported at the same time as him as well as the struggle of so many of the boys from St Michael’s as some were not literate, some ended up in prison, on drugs, and others died.

So, he decided to put his dreams of performing on hold.

“I said I had to get my life together and help the children in the Beetham. That’s how the school came about.”

In 1985, he saw a shed that was not in use and asked permission to open a small school that would one day become All In One Child Development Centre. It was a galvanised shed with an earthen floor, one wooden door, no ventilation, and boxes for chairs and tables. When the shed flooded, he would go to the Beetham landfill and get large pieces of cardboard to place on the floor.

Some members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen lived nearby and they told their now-deceased leader Yasin Abu Bakr about his plight and he provided wooden desks for the children.

The children were not paying any fees so, for ten years, he survived by getting toilet paper in bulk, re-wrapping them individually in bread bags and selling them at the market.

At that time, he used to help care for an elderly woman whose daughter lived abroad. The woman agreed to move to a nursing home and, since the space would be empty, she gave Jordan the house to use as a school.

Four years later, the house flooded once again and members of the media captured his story on print, TV and radio. He told journalist Dale Enoch that he was ready to go to jail so his 28 students could get an education.

Then Minister of Works Sadiq Baksh commended Jordan for his passion and invited Jordan to his office. There he gave Jordan written permission to use the unfinished community centre “until further notice.”

Inside the Each One Teach One preschool run by Wayne Jordan at Beetham Gardens. - PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

There was no electricity, pipe-borne water or toilets and for three years he used pigtail buckets as toilets, which he sanitised every evening.

Around that time he wrote a composition called Youth in Education for a competition held by Amoco. He wrote about himself and his life and won US$10,000.

Fr Gerard Pantin, the founder of Servol, helped him start a bank account which he put in the school’s name. Pantin also offered Jordan training which he gladly accepted as long as the mothers of two of his students were allowed to get training as well. Since then he continued to do teaching courses and training to develop himself.

As they were all certified, Jordan was able to pay the two women and they became his first teachers. He was also able to purchase chairs, desks, a water cooler, kitchen utensils, and other implements for the school.

With help from various ministries; Servol; youth activist Gregory Sloane-Seale; president of The Children's Ark Simone de la Bastide; Jan Ryan of the WAND foundation and others, All in One remained at the former community centre and was upgraded over many years.

“There are so many people who have really pushed me and helped me get the resources I could not afford. I just can’t thank them enough.”

In 2007, Jordan left All In One for the job of community outreach officer with Servol. He visited homes in areas throughout the country accessing the educational needs of children.

That year, Servol’s Junior Life Centre in Beetham was vandalised. It was a place where children who did not do well in their Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam were taught math, English, and practical matters like how to write receipts, and public speaking. And after graduating they would go on to Servol’s Adolescent Development Programme to learn a skill.

“Fr Pantin called me and said, ‘Mr Jordan we don’t want to lose the building. Do something with it.’ The children helped me thoroughly clean that building and that’s how I ended up having my 12th or 13th annual six-week summer camp there.

“But I realised many children were still not going to school. That very same year I started taking children from the community and brought them in the building and taught there four days a week and I was on the field on Fridays.

“The children started coming, people started to come on board, and two years later we officially started Each One Teach One Special School.”

Hard work pays off

One day in 1999, a police officer showed up and gave Jordan an invitation to the President’s House. Went he went, then-President Arthur NR Robinson told him he was nominated for a national award.

“I was shocked. I was overwhelmed. I had seen at St Michael’s where people had died and got posthumous awards and here it is I am, alive, going to receive one, not only for me but for Beetham. Because without these people I don’t think I would be where I am today.”

That year, he won the Medal of Merit (Gold) in Education / Community Service.

Jordan told Sunday Newsday he believes everything happens for a reason. He said his life was not easy but he did well and so wants to give back. To him, giving back includes singing at events and functions, even for his students, free of charge over the years.

He said he was able to care for his sick mother before she passed, has three children and three grandchildren, with one on the way, and he is doing the things he loves and that fulfil him.

He retired from Servol two years ago but he was asked to stay on, which he plans to do until he is 65. Whenever he retires from the school, he plans to perform even more.

“I know my music is what will steer my path because I can do that quite well. It’s something I have been doing for years. I think that’s what keeps me alive. It’s something I wouldn’t give up.”


"Wayne Jordan: All in One founder keeps school alive in Beetham"

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