Students from Greenwich Town in St. Andrew who will be attending secondary school in September are benefiting from a summer programme that has been introduced as part of interventions under the Zones of Special Operations (ZOSOs).
Minister of National Security, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said that the music, sports and technology programme is part of a strategy aimed at effecting positive change in the area, where a ZOSO was recently declared.
“The idea is to begin a process of transformation in the community where we will use the summer school… to prepare them for high school,” he said.
The Minister was presenting a report in Parliament on Tuesday (July 14), regarding the ZOSOs being implemented in Greenwich Town and August Town.
The students from Greenwich Town Primary School are among 350 Primary Exit Profile (PEP) pupils who are benefiting from the summer programme. The others are drawn from the Dupont, Cockburn Gardens, St. Peter Claver, Tavares Garden and Whitfield Town primary schools in the St. Andrew South Police Division.
The three-week-long summer programme will give those challenged by limited numeracy and literacy skills the opportunity for enhanced learning to aid their transition into secondary school, while being exposed to music, sports and technology. It is also expected to alleviate negative psychosocial and psychological effects associated with violence in the communities.
Dr. Chang noted that the summer school will help youngsters, particularly boys, who are sometimes left behind, in improving their chances at a better life.
Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, declared ZOSOs in Greenwich Town on July 1, 2020 and August Town on July 8, 2020.
Dr. Chang said the intervention was necessary, as these communities have experienced an escalation in murders and shootings, largely perpetuated by the presence of gangs.
“The violence and lack of certain social conditions in these communities point to a number of developmental challenges. It is within this context that approaches and decisions have been systematic rather than arbitrary and are guided by an approved social programme framework, driven to provide targeted solutions and improvements in a number of developmental areas,” Dr. Chang said.
These include improving the physical environment, providing land tenure where necessary, community safety, human and community development and employment, business and economic development, spiritual and faith-based intervention, and leadership.
He noted that the “soft work” has already been started by institutions such as the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF), while the Ministry is spearheading other activities.
“The hard infrastructure work has not yet started but… it is a critical part of the entire programme as we move [to undertake work to] significantly improve the infrastructure of various areas of the… Greenwich Town and August Town [communities],” he said.
Dr. Chang said that ZOSOs have been proven to work, noting that since the declaration of the Zones in Mount Salem and Denham Town, the transformation process has started.
“These two communities had previously been exposed to intolerable levels of crime and criminal influence, and the residents can now finally experience peace and security. This is a model that we must seek to learn from and scale up, and we’ll be scaling up,” he said.
“We are building on what has worked and what can be further improved as we review and refine our concerted efforts to accelerate transformational change in these communities,” he added.
The Greenwich Town and August Town ZOSOs will be in operation for periods of 60 days, continuing until August 31 and September 7, respectively.