To assist in tackling the problem of illiteracy, the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH), will in June, embark on a public education campaign, to highlight the importance of acquiring an education.
Dubbed, ' School Wi Seh', the campaign will target schools at all levels, but in particular, secondary school students, because of the level of dropouts among this group islandwide.
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“We are doing the best that we can, but we know that we can do more, so for the month of June, we want to introduce this public education campaign, that will encourage children to value their education. Also, we want to encourage families to also prioritise education, for the sake of their children,” says Social Marketing Manager for PATH, GraceAnn Scarlett.
She tells JIS News that PATH is trying to deal with the issues that are preventing students at all levels from attending school, and from excelling in the academic areas. “In addition to providing social benefits, we aim to meet the students where they are, and educate them about the need to stay in school,” she emphasises.
To achieve this, she said that PATH will try to enrich the students with an interactive educational experience. This initiative is geared at captivating the students’ attention, so they will eventually be encouraged, based on the activities and the campaign messages.
“We understand the age group that we are targeting, so we have to capitalise on cultural activities, to really get them to buy into the campaign. Hopefully, with other interventions at the family level, we will see a turn around,” Miss Scarlett says.
Some of the cultural activities include speech and drama competitions, educational shows, featuring guest performers; and PATH interactive exercises.
She points out that a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) has been signed between the Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) and PATH, which provides children across the island, with the opportunity to showcase their talents, and should reflect the programme.
“Some of these activities have been ongoing, and will tie in with the upcoming campaign, to really engage the students. Educational materials will be provided to students, to enhance their learning experience. The purpose of involving the Guest performers, is basically to appeal to the students to stay in school,” she explains.
Miss Scarlett tells JIS News that another aim of the campaign is to get the parents deeply involved, so they will prioritise their children’s education.
She also indicates that parents, who are actively involved in the campaign, will ultimately be empowered to acquire an education to improve their economic status.
“We want to have that impact on the parents, so they will be more responsible to basically send their children to school, based on the messages that will be communicated,” she adds.
Importantly, she mentions an audience segment of the campaign, geared at targeting particular groups, including children, parents, and stakeholders.
“We are cognisant of the important role that our key stakeholders (educators, councillors and social workers) play in terms of influencing parents, to send their children to school. We will continue to work with these groups throughout the tenure of the campaign, to reach out to the students directly,” Miss Scarlett says.
She notes that PATH recognises some of the challenges beneficiaries under the programme endure on a daily basis, hence the need to heighten the importance of education among children, through the public education campaign.
“We are fully aware of the socio economic conditions, and the physical challenges that families face day by day. We aim to emphasise to these families that the only way that they can break the cycle of poverty is through an education,” she tells JIS News.
“We aim to promote the traditional value of education, which has been lost by many of our youngsters. We are definitely seeking to ensure that these values are once more embraced throughout the life cycle of the campaign and beyond,” Miss Scarlett adds.
Director General at the Ministry of Labour and Social Security (MLSS), Faith Innerarity, tells JIS News that there are several factors that contribute to children dropping out of school.
She also informs that PATH, which is administered by the Ministry, will be addressing the issue of child labour, which is one of the critical factors that prevent many children from attending school.
“We aim to ensure that children who are involved in child labour, are brought into the education system, by all means necessary, throughout Jamaica,” she emphasises.
The campaign is scheduled to last for 12 months, and involves several participating groups, such as the Ministry of Education, Community-Based Organisations, Faith-Based Organisations, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs).
By Jeneva Gordon, JIS PRO