- Issues arising from a JCF study regarding some high schools have now been clarified, following discussions involving the principals, the police, and officials from the Ministry of Education.
- The school heads were given an opportunity to air their concerns and solutions were identified for some of the issues raised.
- The majority of the discussion was focused on dealing with the “positive and necessary steps” that must be taken to improve quality in all high schools.
Several issues arising from a Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) study regarding some high schools have now been clarified, following discussions involving the principals, the police, and officials from the Ministry of Education.
The study, entitled ‘Education and Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates in Jamaica’, identified 18 secondary institutions as having been attended by a large number of convicts.
At the meeting held on January 27 at the Education Ministry’s National Heroes Circle offices in Kingston, the school heads were given an opportunity to air their concerns and solutions were identified for some of the issues raised.
Portfolio Minister, Hon. Rev. Ronald Thwaites, told JIS News that he welcomed the opportunity to discuss the concerns about the level of anti-social behaviour in the education system on the whole, and in the schools named in the JCF report.
“I made it clear that there was no intention to damage any school’s or individual’s reputation and to the extent that that was happening I was sorry. They were kind enough to accept that,” the Minister said.
He further informed that the majority of the discussion was focused on dealing with the “positive and necessary steps” that must be taken to improve quality in all high schools, particularly those highlighted in the report.
Minister Thwaites said the principals had expressed their needs, and pledged that the Ministry “will do everything possible to respond. It will be a priority for us to help those schools that are most vulnerable, that are weakest, to meet their needs and to improve…I was happy that there would be ongoing discourse between themselves and ourselves.”
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Elaine Foster Allen, informed that some of the principals had received the report from in November/December and they were already putting corrective measures in place.
“They have their action plans sorted out and they have actually started to do some work to respond to a real problem, which is not a school problem but a problem that besets us in our communities,” she stated.
One of the schools identified in the study was Holy Trinity High, and the institution’s principal, Margaret Brissett-Bolt, told JIS News that while she was “a little bit thrown” when the report came out, she realised after reading it that “the media got it wrong”.
“I was able to look through the survey and I was able to discuss it with the teachers because all the teachers were upset….but when we got the document and we were able to sit and go through (it), it wasn’t anything hitting at the schools, not the schools of today,” she said.
Mrs. Brissett-Bolt said she appreciated the Minister’s meeting with the principals, which ended on a positive note.
“I think we all left feeling a little more uplifted, supported, hopeful because there is a door now that is open for us now at the Ministry where people will have the opportunity now to share their plans, share their dreams, share their hopes….the Ministry will now be knowledgeable about these ideas and our action plan moving forward,” she said.
Principal at Denham Town High, Audrey Williams, also expressed her satisfaction with the meeting, which she said “came out of something that was negatively presented”.
“It gave us the opportunity to lean on our other colleagues. It gave us the opportunity to share with the police and the Minister and to …get some other opportunities open to us also,” she said.
Principal of the Jonathan Grant High School, Dr. O’Neil Ankle; Principal of Kingston High School, Corrine Richards; and Principal of Vauxhall High, Angela Chaplin, also welcomed the gesture.
In the meantime, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Norman Haywood, argued that the study “was clearly taken out of context”.
“After reading the study, one could see that the study was a descriptive study and it didn’t place any emphasis on causation and correlation. From a police perspective, we are satisfied with how the meeting went and we assure the principals and Ministry staff that we will continue to work with them in strengthening and building the capacity of the schools in order to continue the good relationship that we have had for years,” he stated.
Minister Thwaites tabled the JCF report in the House of Representatives on January 21.
At the time, he informed that 56 schools across the island would receive special attention, as of February, as part of a school-based solution for crime and violence. The institutions include 18 non-traditional junior high/high schools, which were identified by study.
The report identified the links between the behaviour patterns of children and their anti-social conduct, both of which, it was argued, could most often be predicted from school days.
The study also noted that many young persons, who ended up committing serious crimes, were frequently absent from school; exhibited cognitive or social abnormalities; were not assessed or treated adequately; and had little or no effective family, teacher support or certification.
Minister Thwaites said that the special intervention will seek to, among other things, identify troubled, deviant and seriously disadvantaged students; assess and address their situations; and prevent dropout.