JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The students are the proof of the falsehood of this sentiment, as they all attended non-traditional high schools, and have done exceptionally well, amidst trying circumstances.
  • Non-traditional high schools in the Jamaican education landscape have evolved over the past four decades from junior secondary to comprehensive high, and presently, upgraded high schools.
  • According to Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, these upgraded high schools are doing well, with many surpassing the achievements of some traditional institutions.

The 24 recipients of the National Child Month Committee’s (NCMC) inaugural National Academic Achievement Award, say they are happy to have helped paved the way to hopefully dispel the negative notion that non-traditional high schools are for under achievers.

The students are the proof of the falsehood of this sentiment, as they all attended non-traditional high schools, and have done exceptionally well, amidst trying circumstances.

Chairman of the NCMC, Dr. Pauline Mullings, explains that the Award was conceptualised when at an NCMC annual Youth Forum two years ago, one of the presenters made the observation that athletes are usually lauded for their efforts, while, those who excel academically are seldom recognised.

Non-traditional high schools in the Jamaican education landscape have evolved over the past four decades from junior secondary to comprehensive high, and presently, upgraded high schools.

According to Minister of Education, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, these upgraded high schools are doing well, with many surpassing the achievements of some traditional institutions.

The recipients of the NCMC National Academic Achievement Award must attend a non-traditional high school, or a secondary school for students with special needs, and must have attained five or more subjects during the 2012/13 sitting of the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) Examinations.

“I cried after hearing that I was placed at Papine High, but after the tears I was determined to grow wherever I was planted,” recipient, Nicole Williams, tells JIS News.

The students are not recognised solely for their academic achievement, but they must also have done so while overcoming great adversities.

Imagine being abandoned by your mother at the age of two. Such was the plight of Alex Henry, who, along with two older sisters, were left in the care of their father.

After sitting the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), she was unable to attend high school because she did not have a birth certificate.

“I did not even know which school I passed for so I stayed home for three years until someone reported that I was not attending school,” Alex tells JIS News.

“I was then enrolled into Denham Town High School in January 2009.

At that time I should have been in Grade 9 but I asked the school to let me start at Grade 8 since I had missed out on so much,” she reflects.

Alex recalls being quite sad and depressed and feeling like she was just attending school for the very first time. This was in addition to the fact that she was starting almost in the middle of a school year.

She was not to be daunted academically however, and proved the power of determination, by topping her class, and continuing to do until she graduated.

The conscientious young lady who has aspirations of being a lawyer, says that despite the death of her beloved father, she excelled, and was successful in eight of the 11 CSEC subjects she sat.

She is currently pursuing four subjects in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE), and an additional CSEC subject in Lower Six form at Denham Town High.

Despite these achievements, Alex still maintains her fixity of purpose and will-power, as she resides in an inner-city community with her older sister who is unemployed. She attends school on most days, without money for lunch.

Another recipient, Ralisa Dawkins, formerly of the Salvation Army School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, lost her sight at age 14 due to a neurological disorder, while attending Lennon High in Clarendon.

“For 20 months I was unable to attend school…Lennon High was willing to take me back but my eye specialist suggested that my parents enrolled me into the Salvation Army School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. If losing my sight was not enough, just as I started to cope with my disability, my father, who was the breadwinner of the family, died tragically leaving us totally devastated,” she tells JIS News.

Even amidst those extreme odds, Ralisa received distinction in the five subjects she sat in the CSEC examination.

With limited financial support, she ventured off to solicit funds to further her education and was fortunate to receive assistance from a private individual who made it possible for her to enroll in the Queens School sixth form programme.

She has completed CAPE Unit 1 and was successful in all subjects.

She is currently preparing to sit CAPE Unit 2, and is awaiting admission to the University of the West Indies, or the Mico University College.

The other recipients were: Shana-Kay Gooden, who attends the Lister Mair Gilby High School; Derrick Hoffenden of Kingston High; Bilton Mills, of Tarrant High; Penwood High’s Courtney Harris; Sasha-Gay Williams, of St. Mary’s College; Orville Lee Levy of Old Harbour High; and Abagail Atkins of Maud McLeod High.

Also receiving awards were: Akeem Whithead, of  Godfrey Stewart High; Teresa Perkins, of Merlene Ottey High; Zariea Gilfillian, of Porus High; Keano  Green, of Winston Jones High;  Joseann Plummer, of Albert Town High; Creighton Solomon, of William Knibb Memorial  High; Jarret McCleary, of Port Antonio High; Sheldon Daley, of Balaclavia High; Jevoi Jackson, of  Newell High; Malik McPherson, of Claude McKay High;  Romario Brown, of Spalding High; Solomon Leslie, of Robert Lightbourne High; and Chad Edwards of Spot Valley High.

The awardees represented non-traditional high schools from all parishes except St. Ann and St. Mary. Of the 162 secondary schools across the island, more than 50 per cent, are considered non-traditional.