Fri | Oct 20, 2017

Do they like it so at Trench Town, Charlie?

Published:Tuesday | March 3, 2015 | 12:00 AM

There is a willingness in Jamaica to excuse, explain away and romanticise failure, which adequately characterises the reaction being unabashedly paraded over the plan by the education ministry to merge those two failing high schools in South St Andrew, Charlie Smith and Trench Town.

Last week, students at Charlie Smith, backed by parents, and, we sense, the implicit support of teachers, padlocked the gate to the compound and demonstrated in protest of the impending merger.

At a subsequent meeting with stakeholders, hard-pressed education ministry officials, and even the parliamentary representative for the area, struggled to get community buy-in. Everybody - whether they be residents, teachers or students - wants these two institutions, within a stone's throw of each other, to remain separate.

In 2013 and 2014, a mere 16 students at Charlie Smith, in each of these years, passed English at the Caribbean Examinations Council's secondary-school exam. The pass rate was 18 per cent and 31 per cent, respectively. Over those same two years at Trench Town, 23 students in each of the years passed the subject. The pass rate was 36.5 per cent and 20 per cent. Those results were after a significant chunk of the grade 11 cohort was screened out of the exam.

Educationally, notwithstanding the protestations and obfuscatory palavering by Charlie Smith teacher, Mark Malabver, these are failing schools. Parents, despite the emotional distortion of facts, understand this truth and have been making this clear with their enrolment decisions.

Charlie Smith was built to accommodate 800 students, but its enrolment is only 68 per cent of its capacity. Trench Town's capacity is 1,200, but less than 40 per cent of that number is enrolled. Indeed, parents whose children are placed in either of these schools often seek transfers, and not only because of the community in which they exist.

The merger of the schools, with, hopefully, new leadership and a changed ethos, offers the best chance for their rescue, doing right by their students and the enhancement of the community in which they exist, beyond achievement in sports.

We urge the Government to push on with its plans, for they can't really like it so at Trench Town and Charlie Smith. In any event, they deserve better.