Written by: Rochelle Williams
Forty-eight adolescent parents have received bursaries and scholarships valued at $2.32 million to assist with their reintegration into the formal education system.
The awards, under the Advancing Secondary, Tertiary Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers (A- STREAM) Programme administered by the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), include 44 bursaries worth $40,000 each to 40 teen mothers and four fathers enrolled in high school or pursuing vocational training.
In addition, four scholarships valued at $140,000 each, have been presented to four mothers who have matriculated to tertiary-level education.
The funds, which will cover tuition fees, books, uniforms, transportation and lunch, were presented at a ceremony on Tuesday (September 11) at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is supporting the initiative, through $3.4 million to A-STREAM over a three-year period.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, in her address, commended the WCJF for its work over the last 40 years in providing adolescent mothers with continuing education during their pregnancy and having them reintegrated into the formal school system after the birth of their babies.
“The 47,000 girls, whom the programme for adolescent mothers has assisted to date, should be multiplied by two, in light of the fact that for every girl assisted there is likewise a child that benefits,” she argued.
The Minister pointed out that in any given year, 70 per cent of the enrollees are reintegrated into the formal school system.
She noted, however, that several of the girls are at risk of dropping out of school for a second time for reasons that include financial constraints and inadequate psycho-social support, and A-STREAM is designed to provide them with the necessary assistance to ensure that they complete their education.
Minister Grange noted that the effort to get the girls back into school is being aided by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information under its National Policy for the Reintegration of School-Age Mothers into the Formal School System initiative.
She expressed gratitude to the AHF, which is meeting 50 per cent of the costs for the bursaries and scholarships provided this year.
“Their commitment… underscores their interest in the work of the Women’s Centre and furthers the AHF’s undisputed support of the national thrust towards human capital development. AHF has been making an indelible mark on the Jamaican landscape…we are extremely grateful,” she noted.
Caribbean Regional Director of the AHF, Dr. Kevin Harvey, said the Foundation is pleased to assist in improving the outcomes of the young people.
“We will try to do this as long as we can and provide the necessary support, so that you cannot only start school, you can finish… . We are taking it to the end,” he said.
Executive Director of the WCJF, Dr. Zoe Simpson, for her part, said “we are expecting that the programme will go on way into the future, because as the girls are reintegrated, we want to ensure that they complete their secondary education instead of dropping out a second time”.
A-STREAM has three main components – mentorship, sponsorship and scholarship. Under the mentorship aspect, adolescent mothers are paired with persons who will encourage them to complete their education, while assisting them with critical life skills.