NAA Awards a real breath of fresh air

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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The National Child Month Committee (NCMC) deserves high commendation for its inaugural National Academic Achievement Award.

According to Dr Pauline Mullings, the committee chair, the award was conceptualised at an NCMC annual youth forum, two years ago, when one of the presenters made the observation that athletes are usually lauded for their efforts, while students who excel academically are seldom recognised.

That the award is presented only to non-traditional high school students, or those attending a secondary school for students with special needs, is indeed a welcome move because those schools are often viewed with a certain bias by too many Jamaican parents.

Each year, especially when Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) results are released, parents whose children are placed in non-traditional high schools engage in a mad scramble to get them transferred to traditional high schools.

It's a most distressing exercise and one that can only end when these schools, that are mistakenly not considered to offer quality education, get more and improved resources.

That, we hold, is not just a responsibility of the Government, but requires input from the communities that these schools serve, parents and, most important, past students.

All that, of course, will come with a huge shift in thinking, because the biases that feed neglect of these schools are deeply ingrained in our culture.

But we see hope in the National Academic Achievement Award, especially after reading the stories of three bright young recipients -- Nicole Williams, Alex Henry and Ralisa Dawkins.

Ms Williams told JIS News that she cried after hearing that she was placed at Papine High School. However, after the tears, she was determined to grow and excel.

Ms Henry's story is particularly moving as she was unable to attend high school after sitting the GSAT because she did not have a birth certificate.

The upshot is that she stayed home for three years until a concerned citizen told the authorities that she was not attending school. That led to her being enrolled in Denham Town High where, she said, she asked to start a grade below students her age.

Despite her circumstances, which were made even more difficult by personal tragedy, Ms Henry was successful in eight of the 11 CSEC subjects she sat. Now she is pursuing four subjects in the Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examinations and intends to go on to study law.

Young Ms Dawkins also has a most inspiring story, having lost her sight at age 14 and her father, the family breadwinner, shortly after.

Ms Dawkins, we are told, received distinction in the five subjects she sat in the CSEC examination, is currently preparing to sit CAPE Unit 2, and is awaiting admission to the University of the West Indies, or the Mico University College.

That these young ladies have managed to overcome adversity while being educated at schools that get little respect from too many Jamaicans who are financially well off, suggests that there is great promise in these schools.

What they need, as we said before, is more and better resources.

Our congratulations again to the National Child Month Committee and to the 24 recipients of the National Academic Achievement Award.




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