Sharma Knight - Taking a stand for vulnerable young people
ANNOTTO BAY, St Mary:
Having spent the last 15 years observing and engaging with the students at Annotto Bay High School in St Mary, guidance counsellor Sharma Knight has come to some thought-provoking conclusions about the relationship between students from disadvantaged communities and their parents.
Principally, Knight believes that in the vast majority of cases, extensive parental support is necessary for a child to achieve their full potential, and crime and violence in the near future, could be greatly reduced if more young men were encouraged into further education.
Speaking to Family and Religion last week, Knight said: "I think the biggest problem we have in this area is a lack of positive role models for young men. They don't see positive things happening around them, so they lack direction in terms of making decisions about where they want to go in life.
WORSE FOR BOYS
"It's worse for boys because families tend to push the females a lot more, which is wrong; there should be a balance. I think it's a cultural thing, that's just how we were brought up and socialised; male students are allowed to be out on the road any hours of the night, but we want our females inside and protected.
"In the top stream at our school, out of 45 students, there is a maximum of six males. But it's the opposite in the lower stream where there are 40 males and just four or five females. When it comes to our young men, I don't really see a lot of emphasis placed on education beyond high school, and the long-term effects of this are concerning.
"The crime in our society is mostly committed by males, and when they come to school and leave without getting an education that allows them to go on to college and university, what options are left for them? They go on the streets until they reach prison or die."
Nevertheless, in spite of the obstacles, Knight, who comes from Annotto Bay, insists that irrespective of a family's socioeconomic background, there is still hope for ambitious students whose parents show a keen interest in their academic performance.
"Parental involvement is so important," she explained. "Once parents are there to push a child, regardless of their environment and the things that are going on around them, they will do well. The children whose parents come to parent-teacher association meetings, talk to teachers, and remain involved throughout their entire school life; those are the students who leave here with nine CXC subjects."
Looking ahead, Knight hopes to expand on the work she has done, and engage and mentor even more vulnerable young people. She said: "I want to try and make a greater impact and touch students' lives in a positive way. For me, there is room for improvement because even though I can identify individual students, I want to be able to reach more than what I'm doing now."