JIS News

Residents of South St. Andrew have begun to realise their dreams for higher education and the opportunity to get jobs to help them live in dignity and secure brighter futures for their children.
More than 200 persons from the area including teenagers and men and women 50 years and older, have registered to participate in the Adult Continuing Education (ACE) programme. They see the programme as a beacon of hope that can help to further their knowledge, and brighten their job prospects.
Darian Campbell, 20-year-old graduate of Donald Quarrie High School signed up for the programme, which was launched at the Avon Park Community Centre earlier this month.
With passes in Visual Arts, Donald has dreams of becoming an architect and wants to secure a job, possibly doing data entry or cashiering, so he can save enough money for higher education. He realises that the job market is highly competitive and only the most qualified persons are employed.
“Most of the work that you go to look for right now.they require up to three, four or more subjects. I am looking to do something where computers are concerned, say for example at a supermarket where you want to deal with pricing.you have to be equipped with knowledge of the computer to actually be employed for that position,” he observes.
In pursuit of his dream, Darian eagerly signed up to pursue three subjects in the ACE programme, inclusive of information technology. He sees the programme as a blessing.
“Other than myself,” he says, “I see it benefiting a lot of other people. You have many persons right now who might want to further their education but are doing a lot of other things and can’t get around to doing it. So with the convenience of it being in the community, a lot of people are going to participate,” he tells JIS News.
The 20-year-old is also pleased at the large number of middle-aged persons who are enrolling in the programme. “It gives them a chance to recharge their minds from years ago when they were going to school so it can definitely motivate them mentally and physically. It also gives them the chance to be able to earn from this by getting jobs.” An initiative of Member of Parliament for South St. Andrew and Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies, ACE is designed to equip persons with the necessary training and certification to go on to further studies or get jobs.
Adults registered in the programme will be tutored by 30 students from the Universities of the West Indies (UWI) and Technology (UTech) in Mathematics, English Language, Principles of Business, Information Technology and History. Classes are scheduled to begin next month, with students expected to sit examinations in early 2005.
Joan Spencer teacher training specialist, who designed the programme at Dr. Davis’ request, explains to JIS News that ACE has three levels and operates “through education, skills training and positive values and attitudes.”
ACE 1 will utilise computer technology to improve literacy and numeracy skills. Mrs. Spencer notes, “we are going to try to make it based on some occupational vocabulary, so for example, if you are a mechanic or want to be, then we try to make the literacy more practical and applicable to their own everyday life. So it’s not just learning to read and write and doing arithmetic. It is applied.”
Meanwhile, ACE 2 will be geared towards those persons “who have completed up to Grade 9 in school, but are not trained for the job market and would like to move on to another level depending on what their ambitions are. Those persons would be involved in skills training programmes, which will be facilitated by HEART Trust/NTA.”
The third level, ACE 3, will prepare persons for the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) tests and will also offer skills training to them.
Mrs. Spencer points out that work is underway on a computer laboratory and that participants at all three levels will be utilizing the computers throughout their studies. “Everybody will be learning computer skills and also learning to read through the use of software,” she says.
Mrs. Spencer explains that the stimulus for the ACE programme came from the resounding success that was realized from a reading programme that was launched three years earlier at the Iris Gelly Primary School in South St. Andrew.
The reading programme was implemented in 2000 against the background of data, which showed that two out of three students in primary and all-age schools within the area were assessed by the Ministry of Education to be “at risk”, that is, they were reading below their grade level. Mrs. Spencer happily reports that after three years, the overall “at risk” percentage was reduced from 67 per cent to approximately 27 per cent.
“After the primary programme proved to be so successful, we recognized that there were way too many adults who had been through the system who didn’t do too well at all and are just out there unemployable and frustrated,” she tells JIS News.
“Some had been through high school and maybe had two subjects and wanted to do some more, but affordability was an issue, so there are persons there who may be tertiary level bound but might need two more subjects to get into a teacher’s college, UWI or UTech. The mission then was to bring that phase on stream and get persons beyond just being literate and numerate,” she adds.
She says that the residents of the South St. Andrew have responded overwhelmingly to ACE. “We were planning for about 60 persons to start with, and we had actually registered 79. We then had an orientation to just go through things and it swelled to 240 persons, which really just blew us away because we weren’t planning for that many but we couldn’t turn them back,” she points out.
Phelisha McIntosh hopes that the programme will help her realize her dream of being a teacher. “I have English and Agricultural Science in CXC but I need some more subjects in order to get into teacher’s college so this is a good opportunity for me,” she tells JIS News adding, “I’m doing Social Studies at the moment and I plan to do Mathematics, English and Information Technology in CXC in the ACE programme.”
She says she learnt about the programme from her aunt, who has also registered to do a course in information technology, with a hope of securing better employment.
Miss McIntosh feels that the ACE programme “is a good thing for the community because there are a lot of unemployed people, people who want to go school but can’t find the money to go and we are getting the class for free so that is good. We will also be getting help to pay part of the CXC money. I think this will uplift the community and we will have a lot of people getting jobs.”
She adds, “I think it will help to cut down on the crime and violence and unemployment in the community. If it continues, after the first programme has ended, I think it will do a lot for the community and uplift it a lot.”
She is also optimistic that over the long term, adults and adolescents in South St. Andrew will continue to be exposed to opportunities to improve their education.
Dr. Davies, in his remarks at the launch charged the residents to take full advantage of the opportunity being provided for them to acquire the necessary certification and skills to foster personal development, noting that there would be no excuses for failure.

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