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Record number of wards qualify for tertiary studies

Published:Wednesday | October 14, 2020 | 12:08 AMKavarly Arnold/Gleaner Writer

Western Bureau:

The Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) is celebrating a record number of wards of the state qualifying to matriculate into universities, buoyed by outstanding performances in the Caribbean Examinations Council-administered tests in the summer.

Some 117 wards were successful in getting four or more Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) subjects. The CPFSA is looking forward to them joining 230 current or former wards now enrolled in tertiary programmes, including vocational skills training through a partnership with the HEART/NSTA Trust.

Audrey Budhi, director of children and family programmes at the CPFSA, told The Gleaner that a special support structure was put in place to ensure the wards were both academically and psychologically ready for their examinations after schools were closed in March and teaching went online.

“We are extremely proud and happy for our children. The strategy has been intentional, especially this year with COVID-19,” she said, tipping her hat to caregivers, housemothers, managers, psychologist and foster parents for their work with the wards.

Ainsley Rhoden, who has now completed grade 11 at the B.B. Coke High School in St Elizabeth, was one of the star performers, securing 14 CSEC subjects, after picking up nine subjects this year to add the five to the had previously passed.

Budhi said with the COVID-19 economic crunch, the CPFSA has found the going rough in garnering sponsorships, but she is still happy that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information has committed to pay tuition for wards enrolling into universities and colleges.

“This year it has been really difficult in seeking sponsorship because COVID-19 has made it hard for everybody. A lot of the private funds usually come from the diaspora, but that has also taken a hit because their fundraisers have also been negative impacted by the pandemic,” explained Budhi.

She said that for students entering vocational and other learning institutions, the CPFSA funds their studies from its budget and sponsorship pool.

Budhi, who also oversees transitional living for the agency, is pleased with the successes of the programme over the last six years.

“The Transitional Living Programme which we have embarked on is a unique project funded by USAID and managed by the Caribbean Child Development Centre and ourselves. This is geared towards facilitating the wards who are leaving care and are going to universities, colleges and vocational training centres to get them ready for full integration into adulthood,” she pointed out. “This will not just be a project, as we are implementing it in a long-term programme for the agency.”