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A Container Will Do!

Holmwood Progressive Readers need a computer lab

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND Observer staff reporter sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, December 30, 2013    

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CHRISTIANA, Manchester — After years of teaching literacy from a single classroom at the Holmwood Technical High School, educators are pleading for help to secure a computer room and financial assistance for the reading programme.

"We need your help urgently, please!" read a line from the 2013/14 School Improvement Plan.

School leaders say they don't need a new building. They say a 40 foot container could be transformed into the required computer lab. However, the price tag of $700,000 is still more than the school can afford.

According to principal Paul Bailey, the computer lab project has been on the agenda for the last "four to five" years.

He identified The Rotary Club of Christiana, which is a sponsor of the reading programme, as a potential donor.

The Rotarians have been instrumental in providing financial assistance to students while acting as mentors to improve their self-esteem, social skills and preparing them to become "productive" citizens.

The Manchester Parish Library Network and the Ministry of Education Region 5 are also among the consistent supporters of the programme.

Bailey told the Jamaica Observer Central earlier this year following an achievement day for the Progressive Readers that the problem of students reading below their grade level is long-standing.

He explained that for a long time the majority of the students entering Holmwood came through the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT) with most reading at a standard below their grade level.

Patricia Reid-Clarke, who is in charge of the reading programme at the school, said that five years ago a modification and name change of the existing remedial programme to 'Progressive Reading Programme' helped to bolster the confidence of slow learners at the school.

The achievements of the most recent batch of graduates from the programme have further solidified the need for it to continue, school leaders say.

Students who started out barely able to read were able to achieve passes at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level and Mathematics and English in the HEART Trust/NTA entrance examination, they say.

Currently there are 46 new students in the programme for a total of 76.

One of the strategic objectives of the reading department is to "optimise" the use of technology in the reading programme.

On the agenda is that all remedial students understand how to use the computer and that at least four additional computers are procured for the reading room by June 2014.

Bailey said that in the one classroom that the students now use there are approximately seven available computers.

"(We want to) increase the literacy rate of all remedial students to 100 per cent. (We want to) create (a) conducive learning environment. To improve the average attendance of all reading students by 2016," the School Improvement Plan of the Holmwood Technical Reading Department stated.

School administrators say that if the school is able to source the funding for the container the cost of installation would be avoided as the electrical and welding departments can get the work done.

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