Nackeshia Tomlinson, Gleaner Writer
BALACLAVA, St Elizabeth:
"DON'T LET anybody call you a failure; don't let anybody call your school a failure, what is important is what you do, you are in a good place and there are plenty of opportunities," so said Ronnie Thwaites, minister of education, in an address to students at Balaclava High School, St Elizabeth, on Wednesday.
The Ministry of Education announced last August that it would be intervening in four schools it classified as failing.
The schools are Holy Trinity High in Kingston, Glengoffe High in St Catherine, Balaclava High and Marcus Garvey Technical High in St Ann.
Thwaites was addressing students during a tour of the institution. He encouraged the students to accept responsibility for their success. "Homework is more important than TV, read as much as you can," he advised them. Thwaites highlighted the importance of gaining proficiency in English and mathematics. "The school is not failing," the minister stated emphatically.
"They are trying hard and succeeding in many important areas. They are improving the lot of the students that come to them before they leave and this is good."
His words for parents was "to stop scorning the school", instead, he said they should support the institution to make it the best it can be. For him, Balaclava High has many areas which can be improved.
More support all round
He outlined some ways in which the school will be assisted. These include placing students from the primary level who are literate, supporting teachers and students and ultimately financial assistance.
A math teacher at the institution expressed disappointment with the label that school has received.
"The staff has put out a lot for the students. Most of the students we get are pre-primer. To get them to the CXC level, we cannot be said to be failing. We are working beyond the call of duty," said the teacher.
She added: "We try to motivate them. Sometimes we show them past students who have done well, just to use the negative stigma to propel them forward."
Although unwilling to use the failing label, Lenvas Cole, vice-principal of the institution, admitted the school needs improvement.
"We have plans, some steps we have already taken and some to be taken." The intervention measures include meetings with senior staff, workshops, a leadership retreat and greater emphasis on reading."