Schools transformed - Centres of Excellence initiative institutions showing vast improvement
Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
"I stand here as a student with 11 CXC's (Caribbean Examination Council), nine CAPE units (Caribbean Advance Proficiency Examination) and a proud graduate of a non-traditional high school," declared Penda Honeyghan, who was speaking at a ceremony where the findings of an evaluation report into a project to assist schools was unveiled on Saturday.
Honeyghan is a product of the Centres of Excellence initiative, which began in 2008 out of a partnership between the Jamaica National and Victoria Mutual building societies, under the banner of the Mutual Building Societies Foundation (MBSF). The project focused on improving the capacity of six rural, non-traditional high schools, all of which have reported transformation over the five years.
The high schools participating the project are McGrath in St Catherine, Porus and Mile Gully in Manchester, Godfrey Stewart in Westmoreland, Green Pond in St James and Seaforth in St Thomas.
Honeyghan, who is a graduate of the McGrath High School in St Catherine, expressed gratitude, adding that individuals can achieve greatness anywhere.
"I have no regrets. I have seen total transformation as a result of this programme and many students, including myself, have reaped the benefits," she declared.
Principal of the Godfrey Stewart High School in Manchester, Theobold Fearon, also testified to a positive turnaround and urged policymakers to invest more in education.
"I remembered the days when parents would faint when their children passed for the school, and as a principal, that was sometimes daunting. I am grateful for this initiative and I can proudly testify that I don't have space to take students now," he said.
"I know that transformation is possible and I implore our government and other stakeholders to invest in initiatives like these, because it pays off," he said.
Dr Renee Rattray, programme manager for the initiative, used the platform to urge citizens to move away from tradition.
"Over the years, we continue to categorise schools. I am convinced, however, that it's even better not to be traditional but to create a society that is innovative and creative, which I saw in our non-traditional high schools," she said.
"We are encouraged and we know that there is hope for our young people no matter the school they attend. All they need is a chance," Rattray declared.
Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites also implored persons to desist from attaching negative labels to non-traditional schools. "Lets us leave the designations of traditional and non-traditional schools by the wayside. We continue to see copious examples of persons who have made it from these schools and it is my aim as minister to break the discrimination," Thwaites declared.