This morning I visited one of the schools in which Youth Opportunities works. It is an inner-city high school and I went to meet one of the guidance counselors to explain the project we will be doing with with the Gleaner newspaper. The guidance counselor will be providing answers to ethical dilemmas we will be running every week in the youth section. We talked for awhile- she has been there for 14 years and likes the job as it is rewarding, but allowed that it is challenging. The main problems, she said, stem from a lack of parenting. The parents of these children believe it is sufficient to provide a bit of food and some clothes, but for them, the job stops there. As a result, these youth come to school and grow up with a lack of values and little experience with being loved. Other challenges facing the guidance counselor are gambling, drug and alcohol abuse and pregnancy. One child simply stopped showing up to school and when the guidance counselor talked the parents, she discovered it was because the youth had no shoes and there was no money in the family for new ones.
It is not all grim news, however. Over 100 students are about to graduate next week. Many will go one to a two-year vocational skills training program, some to the University of West Indies and some to the University of Technology.
As I was waiting to talk to the guidance counselor, I met a young man in grade 7/8 who was just about to write a music exam. He let me look at the exam, which was four pages. Its title was Music Tehory (oops, think they meant Theory) and it included questions such as “What are the five lines on which the notes appear called?”, “Who is Bob Marley?” and “Who won the 2011 Digicell Rising Star contest (the Jamaican version of American Idol)?” I asked the young man if he knew all the answers and he said yes. I then wished him good luck and he said “Thank you Miss.”