Poor education failing St Thomas - stakeholders
One hundred and fifty years after National Hero Paul Bogle led the historic protest march to the Morant Bay courthouse in 1865, stakeholders say St Thomas is not only lacking more Paul Bogles, but cite weak school management, poverty and the poor quality of parents as major contributors to the failing educational outcomes of children in the parish.
With nearly 800 of 1,000 children at one school receiving lunch subsistence through the Government's Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), officials speaking at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week said despite the state-of-the-art University of the West Indies open campus in the parish, the young people needing an education are at a disadvantage.
Cardovan Jackson, principal of Paul Bogle High, said the school was renamed in 2004 after it was established as a "pure" junior high school.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the "baptism" of such schools, without the necessary infrastructure for their upgrade, he said the institutions would not function at the level to which they are upgraded.
"(What) I would like to see is a deliberate effort to put the necessary infrastructure in place to create, so we can have what Edwin Allen called truly comprehensive high schools where you have the traditional arts subjects, but a strong focus on the technological and vocational areas," said Jackson.
According to him, at Paul Bogle High, most of the students were more vocationally inclined but were hampered because of poor infrastructure.
He lamented the low primary-school output, which, by extension, resulted in under-performing secondary schools.
Schools were heavily populated on the days they were provided with lunch, which is a maximum of three days per week, under PATH, but some schools found creative ways of increasing the number of days to keep more children attending schools for longer, he said.
However, the low levels of educational output at the schools have resulted in the parish having one of the highest illiteracy rates nationally.
"If you have the best programmes, but because development and the nutritional support are not in place," the outcomes will still be negligible, he suggested.
"There are children who will get everything material, the latest gadgets. I see a lot of tablets around. But a lot of children live literally on their own. No adult. So you might have three siblings. One goes to primary school, one high school and one to the basic school. The bigger one sometimes comes to school late, because that one has to make sure that the little one is taken to school," he explained.
Assistance from the Child Development Agency and other social services were only there in theory, he said.
"I would love to see great infrastructural development in the technical and vocational areas. I understand that there was a development plan that is lying somewhere in the ministry. The argument then was that it was too expensive. Most of the children will do well, but parental and community support is needed," he stated.
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