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Defying the odds - Children in state care ace GSAT with more good news expected when CSEC results are collated

Published:Friday | August 25, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Participants at the Child Development Agency's National Children's Summit at the Jamaica Conference Centre last Wednesday.

More than 110 children in state care aced the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) this year, earning places in some of the island's top secondary schools.

The Child Development Agency (CDA) last week reported that 22 wards of the State in its western region - Westmoreland, St James, Hanover and Trelawny - were placed in some of Jamaica's 'name brand' schools.

In the south-east region, 53 of the students in state care secured grades that saw them placed in the top schools in the Corporate Area. Similar outstanding figures were recorded in the other regions.

According to Director of Children and Family Programmes at the CDA, Audrey Budhi, the children's hard work and determination were exceptional.

"We want to say kudos to the children for their tenacity. Some of them were brutally, physically, emotionally and sexually abused, and still had to go to classes, be involved in the learning process, focus and act normal," Budhi told The Sunday Gleaner following the 2017 National Children's Summit held in Kingston last week.

"Sometimes they had nightmares about the issues they had faced. Sometimes, even when you give them the best treatment in the world, having those emotional scars still makes them hurt, and sometimes they just miss their families.

"One home took some of the children to see their mothers to let them have some time together. Those are the things we have had to do to hold them together and ensure that they were emotionally ready (for the exams)," added Budhi.

She noted that the tutors of these children are consistently improving their skills and methodologies to make sure that no student in state care is left behind despite their weaknesses.

"From our perspective, preparation is really as if you had your own children at home. It's awesome, but intense. There are some who you have to keep them on their toes. Some people don't want to do the extra work, some understand from very early that sacrifices have to be made, and so they are very responsible and disciplined," said Budhi.

She added: "There are some children who prefer extracurricular activities, so tutors and caregivers have to find various methods to motivate them. Overall, some are internally motivated; others, you have to push them."

The CDA executive noted that they are now collating the results of the Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate (CSEC) and are expecting great results.

The was echoed by head of the CDA Rosalee Gage-Grey, who noted that there continues to be an increase in the number of children in state care who do well in their exams.

"The GSAT results were very encouraging and we see more and more children sitting the exams and being placed at schools of their choice. The numbers keep growing which is a good thing," said Gage-Grey.

"Our effort going forward is to improve that and so we are in discussions with Edufocal for example, to see how we can assist them. Education as we know is the vehicle for upward movement so we want to make sure that they are equipped for life," added Gage-Grey.