Educators Endorse ‘School Days Count’ Initiative

Photo: Michael Sloley Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson (right), shares in conversation with Project Director, Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), Elsa Marks-Willis (left); and Public Assistance Director at the Ministry, Fancie Adman (centre). Occasion was the recent launch of the Ministry’s ‘School Days Count’ initiative in Port Maria, St. Mary.

Story Highlights

  • Educators are welcoming the Government’s $5.9-million incentive programme, which is aimed at increasing secondary-school attendance by students benefiting under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
  • It was launched on February 8, in Port Maria, St. Mary, by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson.
  • Guidance Counsellor at the Clonmel Primary and Junior High School, Charmaine Forbes, says the plan has her full endorsement.

Educators are welcoming the Government’s $5.9-million incentive programme, which is aimed at increasing secondary-school attendance by students benefiting under the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).

The programme, dubbed ‘School Days Count’, is a two-year initiative and will roll out between February and April in 34 institutions that have below-70 per cent attendance levels.

It was launched on February 8, in Port Maria, St. Mary, by Minister of Labour and Social Security, Hon. Shahine Robinson.

Speaking with JIS News, Principal of Jackson Primary and Junior High School in St. Mary, Michelle Thomas, highlighted that it was a positive a move that will result in added benefits to the children.

“It is a very good initiative, and it will increase the attendance,” she states.

Guidance Counsellor at the Clonmel Primary and Junior High School, Charmaine Forbes, says the plan has her full endorsement.

“I am glad that they are rolling it out so that everybody can buy into it,” she shares with JIS News.

For his part, Teacher at the Port Maria High School in the Parish, Joel Bromfield, welcomed the initiative and notes that students who attend school on a regular basis, generally tend to perform better.

“I am appealing to the parents… send them out, because you want them to succeed and this increases the likelihood of them achieving more,” he states.

The Programme will offer a range of cash and non-cash incentives to parents and schools to boost student turnout. These include 10 scholarships, each valued at $250,000, to students who will be starting tertiary studies in September 2018.

In addition, there will be a combination of initiatives such as a media campaign; Attendance Fairs in 13 of the most affected schools; and ongoing parent education and interactions in the 34 schools that have recorded attendance compliance rates of below70 per cent.

There will also be a ‘Never Been Absent Stars’ (NBA) competition within the targeted schools, aimed at identifying PATH beneficiaries who have not been absent over the period September 4, 2017 to March 28, 2018.

All winners will be awarded NBA badges, and will be eligible to compete for one of five book vouchers valued at $15,000. Additionally, under the Competition, ten grade-11 PATH beneficiaries, will be identified and awarded scholarships.

Meanwhile, Minister Robinson tells JIS News that the culture of seeing Fridays as not important for children to attend school must be broken.

“Friday is an important day, and we are depending on the Councillors, the Members of Parliament, [and all] positive role models who can instil in students and parents that staying in school is important,” she reasons.

She cited a survey which found that as many as 72.2 per cent of non-compliant PATH students oftentimes do not attend school on Fridays, adding that up to 53.2 per cent of them stop attending school prior to the end of the term.

Also, administrators at PATH have noted with concern the decline in attendance among its beneficiary students at the secondary level, particularly over the last five years, with compliance rates as low as 35 per cent in some schools, during academic year 2015/2016.

Minister Robinson states that her Ministry’s safety net assessments have indicated that a child with an annual 85 per cent attendance, would have missed the equivalent of up to six weeks of classes, or 180 lessons.

“It follows therefore that the onus is on all parents to ensure that their children attend school, at all times, to ensure that they benefit optimally from the education opportunities being offered, whether they are PATH beneficiaries are not,” she states.

Director of PATH, Elsa Marks-Willis, says that while public education surrounding the consequences of chronic absenteeism is critical, “it must be balanced with promotion of the benefits of regular attendance”.

PATH is an initiative by the Government of Jamaica with support from donor partners such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank and other multilateral and bilateral agencies.

It is aimed at delivering benefits by way of cash grants to the poorest and most vulnerable persons in the society.

The programme is administrated by the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, and the main objectives are to increase educational attainment and improve health outcomes of the poor, break the intergenerational cycle of poverty, reduce child labour by requiring children to have minimum attendance in school, and serve as a safety net by preventing families from falling further into poverty in the event of adverse shock.

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