Diaspora takes on summer camp education programme
Jamaica's education system has had a long and sustained relationship with philanthropists, including churches, trusts and the business community. Jamaicans in the diaspora have also been engaged in significant efforts to garner resources that have helped to transform the lives of thousands of Jamaican children.
Against this background, the Jamaica Diaspora Education Task Force, the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade have developed a collaborative framework within the context of the Government's efforts to spur economic growth, job creation, employment, and social development.
Coming out of discussions from the fifth biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference in 2013, a specialised programme - Camp Summer Plus.
Started in Jamaica in July 2011
by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, the programme's success led to further support in 2012 and 2013, but it was subsequently on the verge of being cancelled because of a lack of funding.
According to Arnaldo Brown, state minister in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the diaspora accepted the challenge to take over the programme for 2015 in partnership with the Ministry of Education.
The core focus of the camp, Brown told journalists at a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week, is to raise the educational achieve-ment levels among low-performing students at
the grade-three level, supporting the Ministry of Education's goal to achieve 100 per cent literacy in 2015.
"The main goals of the project are to improve the reading and numeracy levels
of at-risk grade-three students, thereby helping them to master the Grade 4 Literacy and Numeracy Tests, and provide the students with equal access to well-rounded, high-quality summer learning experiences," Brown said.
Students selected for the camp read below the grade-three level, some as low as the kindergarten level.
Following the camp, there have been instances where students have improved one or more grade levels and the Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy Test results for most of the participants have also jumped to mastery.
"Our aim is not to increase the number of students, but rather improve the components of the camp," Brown said. "It is not new funding, but an extension of what was done in the past. Unfortunately, the USAID will not be funding this project any further, so we have to be as efficient as possible."
According to Dr Grace McLean, chief education officer in the Ministry of Education, USAID's Latin America and Caribbean Bureau's Office of Regional Sustainable Development (LAC/RSD) is providing US$250,000 to USAID/Jamaica and the Jamaica Diaspora Midwest/West USA for the implementation of the programme.
"The intent of these funds is to help ensure sustainability of USAID/Jamaica's long-standing reading work as it fully transitions its programme over to the Ministry of Education and the diaspora," McLean said.
She said the focus of Camp Summer Plus is to maintain and improve literacy skills, while also integrating math skills, and will be held from Monday to Friday over a five-week period for four hours each day.
Each class has a maximum of 25 students and concepts taught in the academic programme are to be reinforced through enrichment activities in drama, dance, visual arts, physical education, music, and information technology.