All God's children! - CDA head pleads for fair treatment of wards of the State in public schools
Head of the Child Development Agency (CDA), Rosalee Gage-Grey, is worried about the treatment which might be meted out to wards of the State who are scheduled to begin attending secondary schools in September.
The CDA last week hosted a recognition ceremony for 142 wards of State who were successful in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), and Gage-Grey made a passionate appeal for them to be treated fairly.
"We have to facilitate the children and we don't want anybody to see them as less," said Gage-Grey following the recognition ceremony, which saw both parents and students being counselled about the transition from primary to secondary schools.
"We are encouraging schools not to single them out or treat them any different than anybody else. It is critical."
"Similar to the PATH students who are provided lunches and so on, some of the children feel that because they have to go on the bus from the state homes people will see them and think that they are lesser than them," added Gage-Grey, while referencing the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), set up to help impoverished students.
"So we are really asking the parents, teachers and the whole school community; don't see them as being different. Just see them as another child who is coming in and wants to be educated."
The CDA head noted that most of the children have gone through some very troubling domestic
situations and are easily offended or embarrassed in situations which bring those conditions back to memory.
Of the 142 wards of the State, 137 were placed in the schools of their choices while the others were placed at junior high schools across the country.
The top three students will be taking up spaces at Mount Alvernia High School in St James and St Hugh's and Excelsior high schools in St Andrew.
Twenty-seven students in state care were successful at the Grade Nine Achievement Test level.
"I wouldn't say that we have either gone up or down with the number of passes. The grades range from 20 per cent to about 80 per cent," Rochelle Dixon, public relations and communications manager at the CDA, told The Sunday Gleaner.
"Many of the students would have gone through issues that would sometimes deter them from doing well in the examinations. We have some at the facilities who have some very major challenges, and because of the work that the caregivers and volunteers do they are able to pull through," added Dixon.
"Some of the children actually surprised us because in sitting and working with them we found that there were some weaker ones and some of those weaker ones, excelled and did very well. So we are very pleased about that," said Dixon.
She noted that the CDA invests some $20 million into the education of primary, secondary and tertiary-level children in state care annually.