Wanted: Better zoning
Education Minister Ronnie Thwaites recently announced that a policy would be implemented which will see some children who sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) being placed at schools close to where they live.
Meanwhile, Central Clarendon Member of Parliament Mike Henry and philanthropist Otis James of the charity organisation James and Friends have made calls for proper zoning measures to be implemented in Clarendon, as many parents cannot afford to send their children to schools far from home.
Speaking at a Gleaner Growth Forum, James said some Clarendon students have to travel as far as 25 miles to get to school each day.
"Since last year, I have been debating on the zoning issue. Those opposed to the minister's statement don't know the faces of children not going to school," he said.
James said it was a fight to get some children between the ages of 13 and 14 back into the school system, as many of them have not attended school for as long as a year.
"The reality is that parents cannot afford the high cost of sending them to school miles away from where they live. One child who lives in May Pen attends school at Bustamante High and he is close to at least six high schools," James said.
He also said the community of Farm had a lot of children whose parents cannot afford to send them to schools far away. Fortunately, Central High School principal Vinroy Harrison took some in.
"If he (Harrison) can do that, why can't the other high-school principals ... help out these children?" James said.
James said that originally, there were just three high schools in Clarendon: Clarendon College, Glenmuir High and Vere Technical High.
"All the others were all-age or secondary. Those who didn't make the grade would make do with either the secondary or the all-age. Now, students are being turned away from these schools that have been upgraded, because of grades," he said.
James and Henry pointed to safety concerns as well.
"On more than one occasion, I had to help girls who got pregnant because taxi men sexually abused them on their way to school," he said.
The solution, said James, was for schools to be more accommodating of students who live nearby, and stop turning them away because their average was not up to par.
"Stop thinking about average and reputation and make education a priority," he said.