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Ministers Reaffirm Commitment to Ensuring Teen Mothers Continue Education

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JIS: The Ministries of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport; and Education, Youth and Information, have reaffirmed their commitment to the national policy for the Reintegration of School-Age Mothers into the Formal School System.


Gender Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange; and State Minister for Education, Hon. Floyd Green, signed documents signalling continued support for the policy during a Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) stakeholders’ forum on Thursday (November 1) at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston.


The policy, which was accepted by Cabinet in 2013, ensures the right of adolescent mothers to return to secondary school following the birth to their babies, and facilitates smooth reintegration. It has since been subjected to at least two evaluations.


Ms. Grange pointed out that prior to the policy, it was the remit of the WCJF to negotiate space within the schools for the teen mothers, adding that quite often, the process was time-consuming and tedious.


“Thankfully, there is now a policy, which facilitates a collaborative process between the WCJF and the regional offices of the Education Ministry,” she said, noting that over the past five years, 2,002 girls have been reintegrated into the formal system.


Ms. Grange said that while the vast majority of the girls do complete their secondary education, a number of them drop out of school a second time.


This is largely due to factors such as inadequate preparation to return to school; insufficient post-placement monitoring; inadequate coping skills; financial constraints; little or no family support; domestic challenges; and a second pregnancy.


It is against this background that the Advancing Secondary, Tertiary, Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers (A-STREAM) programme was launched in May to provide the adolescent mothers with psychosocial support that would enable them to complete their secondary schooling.


Ms. Grange noted that the programme is being delivered in collaboration with AIDS Healthcare Foundation, and, to date, a total of $672,040 has been disbursed to 14 adolescent mothers, three adolescent fathers, and three alumnae, who have matriculated to tertiary-level studies.


“Other requests are being processed, particularly as fees for the external examinations are to be paid during the course of this month,” she indicated.


Ms. Grange said that the Ministry is committed to providing the WCJF with the resources needed to deliver on its mandate to have the girls complete their secondary education.


Meanwhile, Mr. Green noted that the Education Ministry is a strong partner in the reintegration of school-aged mothers into the education system.


“However, more needs to be done. We still have to continue to change the mindset of a number of our administrators across the system, who seem to be more concerned about protecting the brand and image of their institutions than protecting our children,” he pointed out.


“Schools weren’t designed just to be names; schools were designed for a specific purpose to serve our children. So a lot of work will have to be done across the education system, and I commit that [my Ministry] will continue to champion to our school leaders and administrators, the need to understand why this is important,” Mr. Green added.


The WCJF is a government agency under the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport.


The core of the work of the foundation is providing adolescent mothers, 17 years and under, with continued education during their pregnancy, and having them reintegrated into the formal school system after the birth of their babies.


CAPTION: Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports Minister, Hon. Olivia Grange (front left); and State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Hon. Floyd Green (front right), display signed documents signalling both Ministries’ continued support for the Policy for the Reintegration of School-Age Mothers into the Formal School System, during the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) stakeholders’ forum at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on November 1. Standing (in back from left) are: Consultant, Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Ministry, Barbara Blake Hannah; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Denzil Thorpe; Executive Director, WCJF, Dr. Zoe Simpson; United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund Representative, Mariko Kagoshima; Deputy Chief Education Officer (Acting) Schools Operations, Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, Mrs. Dasmine Kennedy; and Chairperson, Board of Directors, WCJF, Debby-Ann Brown-Salmon.