Sharma Knight: Tak­ing a stand for vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple

Jamaica Gleaner - - FAMILY & RELIGION - Orantes Moore Gleaner Writer fam­ilyan­dreli­gion@glean­erjm.com

AN­NOTTO BAY, St Mary: HAV­ING SPENT the last 15 years ob­serv­ing and en­gag­ing with the stu­dents at An­notto Bay High School in St Mary, guid­ance coun­sel­lor Sharma Knight has come to some thought-pro­vok­ing con­clu­sions about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween stu­dents from dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties and their par­ents.

Prin­ci­pally, Knight be­lieves that in the vast ma­jor­ity of cases, ex­ten­sive parental sup­port is nec­es­sary for a child to achieve their full po­ten­tial, and crime and vi­o­lence in the near fu­ture, could be greatly re­duced if more young men were en­cour­aged into fur­ther their ed­u­ca­tion.

Speak­ing to Fam­ily and Re­li­gion last week, Knight said: “I think the big­gest prob­lem we have in this area is a lack of pos­i­tive role mod­els for young men. They don’t see pos­i­tive things hap­pen­ing around them, so they lack di­rec­tion in terms of mak­ing de­ci­sions about where they want to go in life.

WORSE FOR BOYS

“It’s worse for boys be­cause fam­i­lies tend to push the fe­males a lot more, which is wrong; there should be a bal­ance. I think it’s a cul­tural thing, that’s just how we were brought up and so­cialised; male stu­dents are al­lowed to be out on the road any hours of the night, but we want our fe­males in­side and pro­tected.

“In the top stream at our school, out of 45 stu­dents, there is a max­i­mum of six males. But it’s the op­po­site in the lower stream, where there are 40 males and just four or five fe­males. When it comes to our young men, I don’t re­ally see a lot of em­pha­sis placed on ed­u­ca­tion be­yond high school, and the long-term ef­fects of this are con­cern­ing.

“The crime in our so­ci­ety is mostly com­mit­ted by males, and when they come to school and leave with­out get­ting an ed­u­ca­tion that al­lows them to go on to col­lege and univer­sity, what op­tions are left for them? They go on the streets un­til they reach pri­son or die.”

Nev­er­the­less, Knight, who comes from An­notto Bay, in­sists that ir­re­spec­tive of a fam­ily’s so­cio-eco­nomic back­ground, there is still hope for am­bi­tious stu­dents whose par­ents show a keen in­ter­est in their aca­demic per­for­mance.

“Parental in­volve­ment is so im­por­tant,” she ex­plained. “Once par­ents are there to push a child, re­gard­less of their en­vi­ron­ment and the things that are go­ing on around them, they will do well. The chil­dren whose par­ents come to par­ent­teacher as­so­ci­a­tion meet­ings, talk to teach­ers, and re­main in­volved through­out their en­tire school life; those are the stu­dents who leave here with nine CXC sub­jects.”

Look­ing ahead, Knight hopes to ex­pand on the work she has done and en­gage and men­tor even more vul­ner­a­ble young peo­ple. She said: “I want to try and make a greater im­pact and touch stu­dents’ lives in a pos­i­tive way. For me, there is room for im­prove­ment be­cause even though I can iden­tify in­di­vid­ual stu­dents, I want to be able to reach more than what I’m do­ing now.”

Once par­ents are there to push a child, re­gard­less of their en­vi­ron­ment and the things that are go­ing on around them, they will do well.

PHOTO BY ORANTES MOORE

Guid­ance coun­sel­lor Sharma Knight.

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