TWO 15-year-old students at a high school in rural St Catherine have been out of school for more than six weeks after the institution sent them home for sexual misconduct on the compound.
However, despite complaints to the Ministry of Education and the Child Development Agency (CDA), the children are still languishing at home with no indication if they will ever be able to continue their education.
Explaining the sequence of events, an aunt of the male student told the Jamaica Observer that she has exhausted all options to get her nephew back into the school system as even the Ministry of Education has refused to offer any assistance.
"Everyday the child keeps asking when is he going to school and although he is not one of the top performers he has always displayed great interest in school," said the aunt, a sister of the child's father. She added: "The odds have been stacked against him from birth as he was abandoned by his mother at three months old and should not again be abandoned by the persons who have been entrusted with this authority to see to the well-being of all children and not just those who society thinks fits into the perfect mould."
According to the aunt, on January 22 the two grade nine students were turned out of school when news of the incident circulated among fellow students.
The guardians were called to a meeting where the principal informed them that the students were not suspended or expelled but given the nature of the incident it would be best they were sent elsewhere.
The principal, the relative told the Observer, promised to make the necessary contact with institutions by the following week.
Two weeks later when the principal failed to make contact with the boy's grand mother, with whom he lives, the aunt said she called the school but could never make contact as the phone lines have been down since Hurricane Sandy struck the island last October.
The aunt said she later sought the intervention of an education officer in the Ministry of Education's Region Six office but to no avail.
"I left several messages and each time I called I was told the messages were given to a "Mr Richardson" and they don't know why he hasn't done anything about it," she said.
A detailed letter outlining the situation and seeking the Ministry's intervention in getting the child admitted to another school was sent to the chief education officer, Grace McLean, but outside of acknowledging receipt nothing was done.
"I made several attempts to get her to intervene but she not so much as responded to any of my subsequent enquiries on whether her office was able to assist," the aunt said.
She explained further that she also reported the matter to Education Minister Ronald Thwaites but was told to take her complaint to the school board as "they are the ministry's representative at schools." However, efforts to reach the school board also proved futile.
She noted further that on February 18 contact was finally made with the guidance counsellor who informed the family they could get a letter to take to a school, which is located at the opposite end of the parish and try to get the child admitted there.
"After I spoke with the guidance counsellor and questioned why nothing was done for near four weeks, the next day the principal called the child's grandmother to say she prepared a letter for that school so she should try to get him transferred there," the aunt said, adding that this was not acceptable given that it is near 25 miles from where he now lives.
When questioned about the status of the female student, the aunt said the guidance counsellor informed her that a placement was also not yet secured at a school for her, but attempts were being made to do so.
The aunt said she also sought the intervention of the CDA's office in Spanish Town to get the child admitted to a closer school, given her decision to have him live at her Spanish Town residence.
"But that experience was even worse as the receptionist at the front desk insisted that I could not speak with a children's officer that day as new cases were only seen on Tuesdays and Thursdays," the aunt explained, adding that it only took the intervention of an official at the agency before she was able to get a children's officer to see her.
However, to date that agency has also failed to assist despite an official report being made that the child has been out of school since January 19.
"My last hope is the Children's Advocate who I have since asked to intervene and the media because I have exhausted all other options," she said.
All other personal efforts to get him in school, she added, has yielded no success as the schools closest to his new residence say they are full.
"I just need to know what systems this country has in place to help our misguided young people or where can I turn to for help because these are the same young boys who become vicious criminals when they are thrown out of school and left with no hope but to roam the streets," the aunt said.