Vision Learning gives youth a chance
Keisha Hill, Gleaner Writer
SPANISH TOWN, St Catherine:
SEVEN YEARS ago, Myrtle Ayre envisioned an atmosphere in which children who had dropped out of school and needed remedial work would have an avenue to be rehabilitated and re-enter the regular school system.
This dream became a reality when the Vision Learning and Remedial Centre was established. However, although a blessing in disguise for the hundreds of students that have been through its doors over the years, it has also been a struggle for the students and the school's administrators.
Now located on Red Church Street in Spanish Town, St Catherine, directly behind the Spanish Town Library, it is now difficult to keep the doors of the institution open. Each student is required to pay a minimal fee of $500 per week. However, with the challenging economic times, many of these students, who are from volatile areas in the parish, are unable to pay this amount.
During a recent visit by Rural Xpress, Ayre explained that many of the students are unattached youth who are unable to find even the minimal resources to attend school. "Some children do not have any clothes or shoes, so they are unable to attend school regularly. Most of them are from volatile areas in Spanish Town, including March Pen Road, Tawes Pen, Old Harbour Road, Jakes Road, Thompson Pen, Jones Avenue, Shelter Rock, Rivoli, and as far as Clifton and Central Village," Ayre said.
Ayre told Rural Xpress that at least 80 per cent of the parents are not assisting the students by paying the school fee. Some of the students are on the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), which often helps to subsidise the needs of the students. "Sometimes the students do not have any lunch, and when you look at them, and know that they are hungry, it makes the situation even more difficult," she said.
Notwithstanding the financial woes, the school is also at a disadvantage because the building itself is in dire need of repair. The entire structure, including the roof, classrooms, library, kitchen, bathrooms, and library are in urgent need of repairs.
Infrastructure repairs necessary
According to Dennis Valentine, chairman of the school board, it is imperative that the overall infrastructure of the school be repaired. "If you look at the physical structure, it is a turn-off. There is also a lot of dust, no proper facilities for the students, and no doors on the classrooms, so the students are exposed to the elements," Valentine said.
Saving one child, he said, is important, hence, his commitment to ensuring that the school stays open. "We want to help unfortunate children like these, and the best method to help them is through education. The school is not just a wonder, it is a must because education is the key to opportunity," Valentine said.
Currently, there are 91 students between eight and 16 years old attending the school regularly. The general curriculum of the Ministry of Education is administered, and the institution is eligible to conduct any examinations there.
Many of the students who re-enter the regular school system have been placed at institutions including the José Marti Technical High School, Jonathan Grant High School, Dinthill High School, St Catherine High School, Eltham High School, and even the Hydel Group of Schools.
The current premises are on a lease agreement; however, through the kind generosity of its owners, although the school is in arrears, they have been allowed to continue occupying the premises.