JIS: Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid, has committed to assisting the Alpha Institute, so that it can continue to provide training and other opportunities for the young men it serves.
Alpha Institute, a private institution registered with the Ministry, is operated by the Religious Sisters of Mercy and caters to the holistic development of young men aged 15 to 19, most of whom are from inner-city communities. Focus is placed on personal development and career advancement training, with the aim of empowering them with marketable skills.
The Institute has faced financial challenges over the years, and the Education Minister, during a visit and tour of the South Camp Road campus on Tuesday (November 21), said he has observed the areas of need and will help.
“Alpha Institute, over the years, has become an oasis for many of the vulnerable youngsters, particularly our boys, who, when we look at the problems that we have in Jamaica, represent much of the problem. Alpha has been one of those bastions that have been helping to rescue many of our youngsters,” he told JIS News.
He noted that while the population at Alpha has been reduced over time because of expanded capacity in the public system, “we’re trying to carve out a new opportunity with them, because there is still… a lot of our youngsters who are really in need. “Because of dysfunctional homes or their own personal circumstances, they need a more caring and nurturing environment, and we will be working with the Alpha Institute to expand their own capacity to rescue our boys,” he added.
Among the measures being looked at is for the Alpha Institute to serve as one of the proposed time-out facilities for children who display deviant behaviour. These students would be taken out of the regular school system and placed in these facilities.
He said that Alpha could also become a centre for the expanded Career Advancement Programme (CAP), where students could receive two additional years for secondary education.
“We want them to continue their education, so that they can be trained and transition into the workforce. We know that over 140,000 unattached youth across Jamaica would have exited the system without proper training and certification so that they can move into the world of work. So, we are also looking at that,” he said.
“As the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, we want to make sure that all youth find an opportunity at Alpha Institute or similar institutions… that we make sure we empower them, so they can become disciplined and productive Jamaicans,” he added.
Minister Reid said he wants the Alpha Institute to remain an oasis for male students who are not functioning in the mainstream education system and look to the institution for rescuing.
“I believe if we can replicate this [and] partner with the vulnerable homes, all our youngsters, particularly our boys, can get a very good education that allows them to remain on the straight and narrow path and become very productive and disciplined Jamaicans,” he told JIS News.
Ministry of Education Region One Director, Kasan Troupe, who was also on the tour, said she is pleased with the activities being undertaken at the Alpha Institute to generate funds, which includes the making of wooden gift items and creative screen-printing.
“I’m really encouraged by what I’ve seen and really anxious to support. I will champion the cause at my end, because I have seen value and we don’t have to necessarily see a massive structure to say something is going on, just the nature of the children; that’s an achievement in and of itself. When we hear of boys being calm and productive, it speaks to what we are putting out into our society. I’m seeing where you take the aspect of social responsibility very seriously,” she added.
Principal, Alpha Institute, Janet Grant, told JIS News that she was pleased with the visit and the expressions of support from the Education Minister.
“There is hope for expansion here and even to help us with our operations, so that things can run smoothly. Right now, we have many challenges, not all financial, but many of them need financial resources in order for us to just make life better for the boys,” she said.
Alpha Institute offers courses in woodwork, barbering, landscaping, music performance and music technology, among other areas. The programmes follow the HEART Trust/NTA curriculum and standards.
CAPTION: Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Senator the Hon. Ruel Reid (second right), tries out a trombone during a tour of the Alpha Institute’s South Camp Road campus in Kingston on Tuesday (November 21). Sharing the moment (from left) are Ministry of Education Region One Director, Kasan Troupe; Principal, Alpha Institute, Janet Grant; and School Administrator, Margaret Little Wilson.