Teenage Mother Lauds Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation

Photo: Melroy Sterling Former student of the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), Withy Smith, speaking at the official opening of the WCJF’s new offices in Denbigh, Clarendon, on January 13.

Story Highlights

  • Possessing enormous perseverance, strength, and courage, 19 year-old Withy Smith has refused to allow the stigma associated with teenage pregnancy to characterise her or curtail her growth and development.
  • Her teachers, who were aware of her dilemma, rallied to assist, and were to raise almost $30,000. This kind gesture enabled her to sit and secure eight Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects.
  • Under a new policy by the Ministry of Education, following the birth of the child and completion of studies at the WCJF, teen mothers are reintegrated into the formal education system.

Possessing enormous perseverance, strength, and courage, 19 year-old Withy Smith has refused to allow the stigma associated with teenage pregnancy to characterise her or curtail her growth and development.

A few years ago, after dropping out of high school due to pregnancy, Ms. Smith enrolled in the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) programme for teenage mothers in Denbigh, Clarendon.

“I was advised by a social worker about the work of the Women’s Centre soon after I had my son. I was interested in what they had to do for teenage mothers. I started to go and I was there until I did my Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT),” she tells JIS News.

After completing her studies at the WCJF, Ms. Smith got the opportunity to re-enter the formal secondary education system, when she was accepted into the Denbigh High School in Clarendon.

“I did my best there. I worked hard and kept aiming towards my goal. I respected the teachers and they respected me. In fifth form I got a trophy for placing first. I also earned a prefect badge. I was soaring,” she points out.

Ms. Smith recalls challenges experienced at Denbigh, as she endeavoured to maintain a balance between being a student and mother.

Invariably, her seemingly dire circumstances reduced her to tears. She was, however, determined to persevere and overcome the looming hurdles.

The time soon came for Ms. Smith to sit external exams; however her mother struggled to find the funds to pay the requisite fees.

Her teachers, who were aware of her dilemma, rallied to assist, and were to raise almost $30,000. This kind gesture enabled her to sit and secure eight Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects.

“I use this (experience) to judge that out of hard work comes success,” an elated Ms. Smith states.

After leaving Denbigh High School, she enrolled at the Portmore Community College in St. Catherine where she is currently reading for a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management.

Ms. Smith praises the Centre for helping to shape and prepare her for all she has achieved thus far, and advises other young girls going through a similar experience, to remain strong, get enrolled at the WJCF, and work hard to realize their goals.

“It will be rough and you will feel discouraged; sometimes you will feel that your life is finished. But do not give up. Go out for it, work hard, (and) God will help you through,” she states.

Meanwhile, Chair of the WCJF, Theresa Campbell, says the Centre endeavours to provide teenage mothers with a semblance of the formal education system.

“We teach the subjects, Mathematics, English, and so on. They are assessed when they come in,…so we identify the level they are functioning at, and then group them according to those levels. The adjustment is pretty good, because we have trained teachers and counsellors who help them with that,” Ms. Campbell outlines.

Under a new policy by the Ministry of Education, following the birth of the child and completion of studies at the WCJF, teen mothers are reintegrated into the formal education system.

Ms. Campbell dispels misconceptions about the WCJF’s role in assisting teenage mothers.

“The fact that we are assisting them to cope does not mean we are encouraging their actions. A part of the scheme of the programme that we have is to encourage them not to have a second pregnancy,” she states.

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