Students given green light
OCHO RIOS, St Ann — More than 30 sixth-form students at York Castle High School in St Ann can now legally get behind the wheel.
On Friday, January 27 they passed the Island Traffic Authority’s written road code test and will receive their learner’s permit. Driver’s education was added to the school’s curriculum in 2014 but Friday was the first time the institution partnered with the Island Traffic Authority (ITA) to have students sit the test.
York Castle High School Principal Raymond Treasure told the Jamaica Observer that the course was added because it is among the skills the school thinks is necessary.
“For me, driver education is something that all students at some point will want to engage in, so we decided to do it as a part of our formal curriculum,” he said.
“The hope is that we will have drivers who know the road code and leave York Castle with comprehensive knowledge of the traffic regulations and driving skills,” Treasure added.
ITA Education and Information Officer, Dontae Matthews said his team was enthused to be a part of the innovative venture.
“When Mr Treasure sent the proposal to our office we immediately did a follow up because it is ground breaking. No school has ever reached out to us. So we met with Mr Treasure and had meetings and those meetings have resulted into what is happening here today and we are proud that a school could include a skill such as this that will be useful in life,” he said.
Under the new Road Traffic Act, a road code test must be taken to be granted a provisional driver’s licence (learner’s permit). Another test must be successfully completed within six months in order to obtain a driver’s licence.
“We hope that after six months the students will be sitting the real exam to leave York Castle with their driver’s licence because we believe it is a critical skill that all citizens must be exposed to,” Treasure said.
Deandrea Green, who successfully completed the written test, believes the introduction of driver’s education in schools is a step in the right direction.
“This driver education course is very beneficial to us as young people because it will help us to be more careful on the road since we are exposed to the rules of the road from a young age,” she said.
“Overall, this is just excellent exposure for all of us moving into our adult years and I hope other schools will see how we here at York Castle have benefitted and also allow their students to do it,” she added.
During her address at the event, Member of Parliament for St Ann North Western Krystal Lee lauded York Castle High’s effort.
“This programme deserves to be successful and spread across Jamaica. As the Member of Parliament I’m happy to be a part of this and I will do whatever I can to push it,” she promised.
Students who passed the written test were given the opportunity, under the watchful eyes of their driving instructors, to showcase their driving skills on the school’s football field. Looking ahead at the viability of the programme, Treasure is hoping to get help from both the State and the private sector.
“Moving forward we hope to get the help of the ministry to pay the salary for the driving instructors and to get sponsorship for the cars that will be used to provide driver education skills. We are currently using our personal vehicles to carry out the programme, the hope is that going forward we will have about three cars,” he said.
Dillon-drae Clarke, who was also successful in the written test, is among those hoping the classes will continue.
“This is highly beneficial because now I will definitely learn the road code and be a responsible driver. It will help to reduce road fatalities because right now most persons who are driving are not familiar with the rules of the road,” he theorised.
In 2022, Jamaica recorded 488 road fatalities, a figure that is of concern to Minister of Transport and Mining Audley Shaw. As he noted during his address at York Castle on Friday, the figure has been climbing over the years.
“I commend York Castle High for adopting this curriculum. Having a programme such as this in schools is a great step towards making our younger generation more aware of the road and traffic safety practices,” said Shaw.
“I’m pleased with the partnership between York Castle High and the Island Traffic Authority to provide training and materials for the execution of the curricular. This will also allow students to obtain their learner’s. York Castle is the first institution to have this being a part of their curricular, which is commendable,” the minister added.