KINGSTON — Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has underscored the need for parents to ensure their children are registered and attending school, particularly at the primary level.
Speaking at the inaugural Courts Customer Scholarship awards ceremony recently, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, Mr. Holness highlighted the Ministry's concern that, up to the end of the 2010/11 academic year, there were a significant number of primary school students who were either unregistered or not attending school.
“The Ministry is very concerned about that. The Ministry would want every Jamaican to fulfill their education dreams and that is what we are working towards,” he assured.
Mr. Holness said the Ministry was pursuing several targets for implementation at the primary level, including universal primary education for children.
“We want all children to be registered at the primary level, in a primary school, attending a primary school for all the days that the school is kept,” he contended.
The Education Minister also noted that, up to the end of the 2010/11 academic year, student enrollment stood at 95 per cent, with an attendance rate of approximately 80 per cent.
“That’s not good enough. That means that we have about five per cent of students who should be registered in a school, who are not in a school,” he argued.
Noting that the school, in addition to being a learning institution, was a point of interaction with the state. Mr. Holness said it was through this channel that youngsters are socialised, and matters pertaining to health and welfare, surface. He noted that the school best determines whether a child is likely to become involved in gangs and crime.
He said that one of the problems the country faces is that a large number of Jamaican children are not known to the state. He explained that these children are undocumented, with no record of their birth, health status or residence.
“It's very difficult to provide for them. But, you will see them emerge in your crime statistics and in your health statistics. You will see them in bus parks; you will see them on the street corners. So it’s very important that, at the primary level, especially…parents ensure that their children are known to the state, by virtue of registration in a school. That’s the first point of contact with the state, he stated.
Regarding the 80 per cent average attendance at the primary level, Mr. Holness said this raised questions as to the reasons for the 20 per cent absence, and how these students were otherwise engaged.
“One has to wonder what are they doing out of school. Are they helping their parents in the market? Are they at home doing nothing? Are they in the bus park? Or are they in gangs. That must not happen. We want our children to be in school every day. Of course, if they are sick and can’t make it, that is understandable. But, we must ensure that our children are in school every day,” he insisted.
Forty four scholarships, valued at over $4.5 million, were presented to the children of customers of Courts’ 29 furniture retail stores. The recipients included youngsters who were successful in this year’s Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), and who will commence high school in September, and others who will be pursuing tertiary and vocational studies and training next month.
Courts' Acting Managing Director, Dennis Harris, in congratulating the awardees said the scholarship programme was created to provide incentives to loyal customers.
By DOUGLAS McINTOSH, JIS Reporter