Worrying sign

Education official laments high rate of student dropouts in schools across the west

BY HORACE HINES
Observer West reporter

Thursday, May 24, 2018

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MONTEGO BAY, St James — Director of Safety and Security in the Ministry of Education, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), Coleridge Minto, informed that the ministry's Region Four now holds the unenviable record for having the highest number of student dropouts in Jamaica.

Speaking at the recent launch of the Gateway Schools Academic Championship Quiz competition at the Montego Bay Cultural Centre in St James, ASP Minto quickly pointed out that the situation is a worrying one and a major concern to all, especially when the issues of safety and security are considered in the mix. Gateway Cooperative Credit Union is the sponsor of the quiz.

“It is a serious challenge, especially in western Jamaica. From 2015 to 2016 academic school year, Region Four, which is made up of the same three parishes that this credit union is offering the quiz competition — St James, Hanover and Westmoreland — has the highest dropout rate of students than any other region,” ASP Minto said.

He went on.

“The matter of student dropout continues to be perhaps one of the greatest challenges for us in safety and security.

“Some drop out because they don't have lunch money to go to school; others, because they cannot afford the bus fare, or they live too far from where the school is located; there are others who stop going to school because of other domestic reasons, inter alia.”

Although it is well known that the three mentioned parishes have been plagued by an upsurge in crime, especially murders, over the last four years, ASP Minto emphatically announced that he was not in a position to link the high murder toll in western Jamaica to the number of dropouts, but pointed to a Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) prison study which shows a possible correlation.

“I don't have the empirical data to suggest that the dropouts are the ones doing the crime, but certainly when you look at the JCF's 2012 prison inmate study, which indicates that nearly 60 per cent of those incarcerated were either a dropout of school, or left school with one or no qualification, that paints a very instructive picture,” the director of safety and security in the Ministry of Education reasoned.

He was equally quick to express his gratitude to the Gateway Cooperative Credit Union for playing its role in support of education.

“That is why we are grateful for the credit union and all other institutions who have interventions in the west to support our students,” ASP Minto remarked.

“I pause to acknowledge the work of this credit union for partnering with education and ensure that they not only catering to the parents who are the clients, but also to providing an avenue to support our students at this level to expand their knowledge and to be better citizens for tomorrow.”

Gateway Cooperative Credit Union is celebrating its first year in operation, having started in January 17 last year due to a merger between the Hanover Cooperative Credit Union and the Montego Cooperative Credit Union.

The Montego Cooperative Credit Union had previously staged the quiz, dubbed 'the Battle of the Brains in the West' for primary, preparatory, all age and junior high schools in the parishes of St James and Hanover, since 1992.

Now, for the first time this year, six schools from Westmoreland will participate, bringing the overall number of competitors to 29.

According to Jennifer Taylor Wilson, general manager of operations at Gateway, this year the credit union has put in over $1.5 million in sponsorship of the competition, which kicked off last week.

“Over the years the credit union has been relentless in its effort to assist the education system as it focuses on academics, the spirit of fair play and love among the future leaders of our country, while educating the youth and the general public of the history, the philosophy, the corporate principles, and the management of the credit union movement in Jamaica. Not only does the competition focuses on the academics, but it also informs the students on the cooperative movement and its importance to the financial landscape in Jamaica. This is one of the outreach programmes of Gateway Cooperative Credit Union,” informed Taylor Wilson in her overview of the competition.

Sergeant Minto noted that “the cohort of students that I am most concerned about, though, are those who we still have control over and that is the cohort that is still in our schools”.

“They are the ones that we must continue to invest in, to ensure that we continue to stimulate their minds at this level through competitions such as these and through their normal engagements in their school activities,” he said.

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