Garbage and Disorder on the University of the West Indies’ Back Doorstep

The University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona campus looks lovely on one side – the main gate for regular visitors has the fairly new Regional Headquarters, which has lovely views of groves of guango trees and hills at the back. Lecturers are comfortably ensconced in College Common. UWI provides various forms of support for and interaction with August Town, just down the road; that once beleaguered community has experienced quite a renaissance, too, after years of gang-related discord. This is all very nice.

Picture perfect: I took this photo one beautiful morning from the Regional Headquarters at UWI, looking across the campus. This is the pretty, peaceful side.

Right across the campus, things are not so pretty. There has been much talk (and no action, over many years) about the ever-burgeoning squatter settlement directly opposite the gate of the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), known as Mona Commons. Successive political administrations have waffled but done nothing about this community with virtually no amenities (roads, water, sanitation etc) and numerous illegal electricity connections. There are reports that the settlement of at least 1,000 residents (on ten acres of land belonging to UWI) will be “redeveloped” starting later this year, with only 23 houses to be relocated. I’m not sure who is paying for this. UWI’s Principal Professor Archibald McDonald says the university has done its research, and the resulting plans for the community are “amazing.” I hope it will be equally amazing for the patients and doctors at UHWI, the premier teaching hospital in the English-speaking Caribbean. Right now, it is the chaos that amazes one the most.

Ramshackle buildings directly on the street at Mona Commons, contravening all building regulations. (Photo: Gleaner)

A little further along, the situation at the Irvine Hall Gate to the campus is an example of the disorder that seems to infect too many parts of the island, despite everyone’s best efforts. Firstly there is the stinking garbage, which accumulates slowly but surely. Secondly there are the hustling taxi drivers – at least fifteen of them at any one time – who congregate there. The drivers are very aggressive, often intimidating potential passengers. According to the security guard at the gate, fights break out among them from time to time. The guard is afraid to intervene directly though. As is so often the case with our taxi drivers, they operate under their own “rules,” and he feels intimidated too.

I’m not overly optimistic that anything will happen to clean up this mess – but hope that what we like to call the “relevant authorities” will investigate further.


2 thoughts on “Garbage and Disorder on the University of the West Indies’ Back Doorstep

  1. The Mona Commons residents are occasionally intimidating too in the comments they make to passengers alighting at the UHWI bus stop. It’s not much different from the typical verbal harrassment females face throughout the island but it’s still disconcerting. I always wonder how they sell fruit, cooked meals etc if they have no running water source. Interestingly, they are well-supported by students, taximen and some UHWI staff though.

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    1. No, I am afraid harassment is something Jamaican women and girls face on a daily basis. I expect the food vendors are supported but as you say, what do they do for running water? They should be properly regulated. But then, the whole area is unregulated, so…

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