Most Jamaicans would scoff at a salary of $2,000 weekly, given that the current national minimum wage is $6,200 for a 40-hour work week, or $155 per hour. But to 43-year-old Wayne Campbell, the pay was an acceptable start, even as his friends ridiculed him at the time.
“Ah waste man work dat, man. $2,000 week, ah waste man fi do dem work deh, my friends said. But when a remember mi effort to get this job and being outta work so long, mi never care,” said Campbell, who is employed as the guard at Yallahs Primary School.
“Nuh man nah come gi me $2,000, an mi sure a mi $2,000,” he told the Jamaica Observer North and East. “Mi nah stop work yah man; who a go gi me $2,000?”
But that was 15 years ago.
Life has always been tough for Campbell.
His father, he said, died when he was a baby, so he has no memory of him. “Mi nuh know how him stay like,” Campbell said.
He recalled that he was just 15 years old when his family moved from Font Hill, St Thomas where was born, to Lloyd's Pen in the parish where he attended Trinityville Primary School.
But given the financial hardships being experienced by his family, Campbell was forced to find work, especially to help his five sisters.
The loss of his father, though, proved a source of pain for him, particularly when his friends would talk about their dads.
“Sometimes when mi friend dem a seh 'mi a go call mi father fi him send dung some Clarks fi mi or money fi mi holiday', mi go a one corna an go bawl,” an emotional Campbell shared.
“I was a handy man, and I was always trying to help others in every way I could. One of my good friends and church brother was working at the school gate as a watchman before and I would accompany him and have talks with him,” Campbell related.
“The place was nice and the walk from home was an easy one, so, I started to visit my friend very often. My interest grew stronger and stronger, so I put out a deeper interest as I started to look at the situation, thinking I could one day get the job as watchman at Yallahs Primary School. “Then I started to step up on my manners by greeting the staff and parents,” Campbell said.
His effort was not in vain as both teachers and parents started to notice Campbell. Eventually a former principal at the school engaged Campbell's services. He started to wash dishes at the school's canteen, distributed lunch, and swept the compound, among other tasks. That resulted in him being employed full-time.
“When mi hear, mi run go tell mi friend dem. Mi tell dem seh mi a work ova primary,” Campbell explained, unable to mask his elation, even after more than 20 years on the job.
As the school guard, Campbell said his focus extends beyond just opening and closing the school gate. He stated that he had a vested interest in seeing the children do well.
“Mi wouda love fi see di children dem improve. Mi would love fi see more pass and more children dem stop giggle, giggle and buckle up more, 'cause when dem nuh pass di parents dem feel bad when dem nuh get di school weh dem put pan di paper. Sometime a different school dem go weh dem neva expect,” Campbell said in reference to the Grade Six Achievement Test.