Persons 17 years and older who, for different reasons, missed out on the opportunity to attain or complete their secondary education, will get the chance to achieve this goal under a new Ministry of Education initiative, the High School Diploma Equivalency (HSDE) programme, to be implemented in September.

The HSDE is a three-tiered adult education programme designed to equip participants with the necessary academic qualifications and certification to enhance their marketability and thereby position them to access quality jobs.

Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has emphasised that education is the "only legitimate means" to upward mobility in the society.


Speaking at the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning's (JFLL) launch of the High School Diploma Equivalency (HSDE), at its head office in Kingston, on Thursday, Thwaites said for the most part, people really want the opportunity to just get ahead in life, in a peaceful and progressive environment.


The National Labour Force Survey (STATIN 2008) states that approximately 128,000 Jamaican youngsters ages 14-24 are not in school and are either unemployed, or outside of the labour force.  Roughly 50,000 of this number are unemployed, and just under 80,000 are outside the labour force. This could hardly be more evident than the area served by Boys’ Town. Under  CIDA sponsorship and already in its pilot phase, The Boys’ Town 15-18 Youth Development Project is using social and life skills (inclusive of Sports & Culture); Communication Skills, including Remedial Education; Job Skills Training; Computer Programmes and Mentorship to develop in 60 young adults per year over a two year period (both men and women) a greater sense of citizenry so that they can better sustain themselves, while taking their place in contributing to community and national development.

Boys’ Town, until recently listed as a project of the Government of Jamaica under the management of the Kingston YMCA demonstrates the vision, evangelism, and the inspirational leadership of the founding Director, Rev. the Hon. Dr. Hugh Braham Sherlock O.J. Boys’ Town traditionally served the specific niche of youth development, particularly through education, skills training, sports and cultural activities, within the framework of Christian values espoused by the YMCA and the Methodist Church of Jamaica. The motto is “We Build”. The institution has grown over the years into a multi-service complex embracing education from Early Childhood to All-Age levels, Sports Clubs, certified Youth Skills Training Centre (Boys’-Heart VTC), and social centre activities which fall within the traditional vision and mandate, and form the basis of the organization’s new thrust.

Established in 1968, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) is Canada’s lead agency for development assistance.  The program is mandated to support sustainable development in developing countries in order to reduce poverty and to contribute to a more secure, equitable, and prosperous world.  In 2009, as part of Canada’s new aid effectiveness agenda, the Caribbean region was selected by CIDA as one of 20 countries of focus. The commitment to the region is for CDN$600 million over a 10-year period and is a tangible demonstration of Canada’s renewed engagement with its traditional partners, including Jamaica, in the region. Through CIDA, Canada supports the development agenda established by CARICOM to achieve regional integration.  CIDA’s long-term goal in the Caribbean region is to help build a more prosperous and integrated Caribbean community, one that is able to generate sustainable economic growth, and eventually provide opportunity and security to its citizens.

Executive Director of the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL) Dr. Alison Cross yesterday challenged captains of industry and social leaders to move concerns about Jamaica’s lagging literacy rate from the periphery to the centre of deliberations about productivity and prosperity.

Greetings from the Social partners of the CIDA-Boys' Town 15-18 Youth Development Programme delivered by Dr. Alison Cross, Executive Dir., Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning.

[May 13, 2010- High Sherlock Hall, Boys' Town, 6 Collie Smith Drive, Kingston 12]

“A child is a promise”, “the youth are our future” We have said it so many times, usually from the comfort of our living rooms, a well-appointed ballroom or in the corridors of academia.
The truth is, we need to disambiguate what that means, and however painful, it bears repeating until we can cauterize the situation and put it under control…SO here is the stark reality of Jamaica’s promise, our youngsters in whom our future is vested.
According to the National Labour Force Survey (STATIN 2008), approximately 127,000 Jamaican youngsters ages 14-24 are not in school and are either unemployed, or outside of the labour force.  (Roughly 50,000 are unemployed, and just under 80,000 are outside the labour force.) 
Considering the school leavers who are likely to be unemployed based on average youth unemployment rates among 16 and 17 year olds we have a population of about 127,000 “unattached” youth. Next month many more will be lining up to march in expensive gowns and suits with well-coiffed hairdos, but fail to make the cut in any test of foundation skills.
The national debate about the state of education is raging – we hear it every day…this is good. Democracy, though loud and often messy, is a good thing, so voices must be heard. What is decidedly unhelpful is the passive blame shifting without concerted action – in fact I think it is the most self defeating thing we can do.
Here is the GREAT news, now that we got that tough talk on the table. Jamaica’s diversity is a blessing, and all we have to do is get all hands on deck, whether or not we all agree initially.
Famous American Talk Show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey hit it squarely on the head when she opined:
“What I know for sure is that behind every catastrophe, there are great lessons to be learned. Among the many that we as a country need to get is that as long as we play the "us and them" game, we don't evolve as people, as a nation, as a planet.”

Right here in our beloved nation we are blessed to have communities like those served by Boys Town that are RIPE with the promise of a good supply of agile minds and bodies.
We have friendly nations like Canada (through CIDA) which have stood by Jamaica since independence and supported every positive initiative.
We have men and women who have come under the direct or indirect influence of the late great Father Hugh Sherlock and his successors in the Methodist and other churches.
There are strong institutions of government at our disposal, and a growing number of bold advocates in civil society which have become our collective conscience.
In short, collectively WE have what it takes to engage our valuable human resources, shake them from a state of limbo and shape them into fulfilled and productive and lives, ultimately engaging them as active partners in national development.
There is much work to do if Jamaica is to achieve the targeted educational goals – work which cannot be undertaken by any single group or agency.
That is why today we stand as ONE implementation team for this exciting project we launch today by ‘inking’ a Memorandum of Understanding. Within the team we have managed to pool an amazing array of core skills and competencies to feed and support the young beneficiaries.

At the end of the day effective governance is about teamwork and partnership and we will be proving that by working together assiduously. In fact, we are convinced that this is a model that should be replicated across Jamaica to fast track social and community development..

Please join us in the spirit of that old Jamaican saying captured in one recent edition of our national pantomime… ‘Let’s tell it to the world that one hand alone can’t clap!

Let’s not just tell them, but show them that we WILL do this, and soon the world with be able to join us in one resounding, sustained round of applause.