Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has asked residents of Tredegar Park, St. Catherine to make every effort to ensure that their children return to school when the new academic year begins in September.
The Minister, who toured the Tredegar Park All-Age School, among other places, on Thursday (August 19), said he visited to reassure parents that the Government would not sit by and allow the education of their children to be affected by crime and violence.
He was referring to last week’s attack on the community by scores of gunmen, which left eight persons dead, including an 11-year-old child.
Education Minister, Hon. Andrew Holness (left) accompanied by the Ministry’s Regional Director for Region Six, Mary Nichols (right), tour the Tredegar Park All-Age School in St. Catherine, Thursday (August 19). The Minister assured residents of government’s efforts to provide resources to ensure the institution is ready for reopening when the new school term begins in September.
“We want parents to join us in showing the criminals and the criminal elements that we are not afraid of them; education is more important and it is through education that we will break the cycle of crime that is gripping our country,” Mr. Holness stated.
He also appealed to criminals to leave the schools alone, and allow the young ones to have a future.
“The future that you didn’t have, allow them to have it; allow them to create a better Jamaica,” Mr. Holness said.
“It is our intention to show the gangs…that we intend to continue with (supporting) the institutions that make communities strong,” the Minister added.
His visit follows that of the Minister with responsibility for Information, Telecommunications and Special Projects, Hon. Daryl Vaz, and National Security Minister, Senator Dwight Nelson on Wednesday (August 18). They led a team of government and police officials on a tour to analyse the security and social needs of the community.
The visit coincided with a social intervention effort co-ordinated by Mr. Vaz’s office involving representatives of Ministries, departments and agencies, including the Ministries of Labour and Social Security, Education, Health, and Water and Housing, as well as the Peace Management Initiative (PMI) and the Victim Support Unit (VSU), who are carrying out assessments and assisting residents affected by the violence
Mr. Holness said he was pleased to see all the government agencies and ministries that came out to take part in the intervention.
“I am here to see for myself what the mobilisation is like. I am satisfied that all the relevant Government agencies are here,” he said.
In terms of students that have been displaced and traumatised by the recent events, the Ministry’s Director for Region Six, Mary Nichols, said that on Saturday (August 21), between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., Counsellors within the geographical area will conduct specific sessions for students.
She noted that the school will now be adequately served by two counsellors, with an additional guidance counsellor, adding that there is a good welfare programme there through the guidance counselling department.
“Anything to do with clothes, food, there is an excellent social programme here from the guidance department,” she said.
A security guard is employed at the school, and a safe school officer (a member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force) is assigned to assist in piloting the security arrangements. The Minister said he intends to discuss security matters with the police, noting government’s efforts to provide needed resources.
He stated that the police will co-operate with the Ministry to ensure that the area immediately surrounding the school is safe and secure. Additionally, a mobile police post is now in effect, following Minister Nelson’s announcement on Wednesday.
Mr. Holness said that the Ministry, with the help of a corporate sponsor, is to stage a fun day for the children of the community at a date to be finalised.
“I’m trying to get everything organised for either this Saturday or next Saturday, so that we could bring some cheer to the children to put them in the frame of mind of going back to school,” he said.
He stated that efforts are being made to ensure that the necessary resources are made available, so that the school will be ready for opening when the new term begins.