Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Audrey P. Marks, is calling on Caribbean Americans to become fully engaged, and invest in their children’s education.
She noted that, otherwise, even brilliant children risk falling through the cracks in the education system of their adopted country.
Ambassador Marks was addressing Caribbean Americans on Sunday (October 31), at an education rally/conference organized by the Center for Urban Research, Education and Training, Inc. (CURET), in Hartford, Connecticut. The event coincided with CURET’s open house and ribbon cutting for its newly refurbished facilities. The 10-year-old centre provides targeted services, including educational, for Hartford’s immigrants.
According to one education study, “Caribbean students unwittingly placed themselves at an unnecessary disadvantage in the New York School system, simply because their parents did not recognize that they speak a language that was not recognized as English by anyone outside of their speak community”.
Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Audrey Marks, posing in front of the Caribbean Resource Center after a tour of the facility conducted by Executive Director, Dr. Edgar Johnson (far left). At centre are educators- Vincent Daley and Veta Daley. Ambassador Marks toured the centre prior to delivering the keynote address at the 5th Annual Education Awareness Rally Conference, hosted by the Caribbean Research Center of Hartford, Sunday (October 31) at the West Indies Social Club in Harford.
The Jamaican Ambassador saw those findings as very troubling signals and observed that, despite the remarkable ability of Caribbean nationals to skillfully straddle two worlds at the same time, if they are not vigilant, their children could get left behind-lost in an educational system they have not learned to navigate.
She cited additional research affirming the role of parents being engaged in their children’s education, as crucial to the children’s ability to navigate the school system, benefit from it, and develop into responsible adults and productive citizens.
The challenges faced in a new system can be seen as an opportunity for growth, especially for new immigrant children, Ambassador Marks argued. She appealed to the community to engage its “true pioneering spirit”, to blaze a trail for those who will follow.
The Ambassador lauded the Center’s leaders, as well as the organizers and presenters at the Conference, for their commitment to supporting fellow immigrants.
“This Center is indeed an indispensable refuge that helps to make the adjustment process more manageable for immigrants. It is also seeking to safeguard the future, by encouraging greater parent and community involvement in the school system,” she said.
The Ambassador took the opportunity to update the participants on noteworthy developments in the economic and education sectors in Jamaica, and sought to enlist their partnership. The Transformation Programme is intended to modernize service delivery, and increase support in curriculum development, teaching practices, learning, behaviour, citizenship, special education, governance and management.
“The Diaspora is a critical and important partner in the transformation process,” she said, explaining that Jamaica’s National Education Trust (NET) was established as “the focal point for interface with the Diaspora on issues related to education and development.” The Trust will actively engage the Jamaican Diaspora, seeking support and investment in education.
Executive Director for the Caribbean Research Center for Urban Research, Education and Training, Jamaican-born, Dr. Edgar Johnson, pointed out that the West Indian (WI) New Arrivals Program was started in 1984, to assist newly arriving students to adjust to the American culture and environment. It began with 12 students who were experiencing severe academic deficiencies in math and language arts, socio-cultural and adjustment problems, but grew over the years with over 3,000 students graduating from the programme in a number of educational institutions.
He said that in having the WI New Arrivals Programs in place, newcomers were not automatically placed in Special Education. Instead, those students who experienced severe gaps in schooling, upon arriving and entering the WI New Arrivals Program improved in academics. They excelled, exited the WI New Arrivals Program to the mainstream classrooms, advanced to the various grades, went onto college and graduated.