Thursday, February 26, 2009
About 3,900 primary school students in a number of targeted communities islandwide, are to benefit from the expanded Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF)/GoGSAT Partnership for Community Transformation Programme, scheduled to roll out shortly. An academic initiative, GoGSAT aims to enlighten targeted youngsters’ knowledge about the relevant safety and security key to their welfare, particularly those deemed at risk of dropping out of school or getting involved in illicit activities, while it prepares them to sit the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT), for entry into secondary school. The initiative is a collaborative undertaking involving the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Community Empowerment and Transformation (COMET) Project, the Social Development Commission (SDC), and the Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCF). It was officially launched at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston on Thursday (Feb.19).
An internet web-based e-learning facility, GoGSAT, is the brainchild of a resident of the inner-city community of Grant’s Pen, St. Andrew, who expressed an interest in assisting young people in that area, particularly those deemed at risk. It was initially undertaken as a pilot project in 2006. Project Manager for COMET, Bertrand Laurent, who spoke at the launch, said that based on the success of the pilot, his agency received and agreed to a proposal requesting their input. Consequent on COMET’s input, some 370 students from areas in which implementation of community policing was undertaken, were facilitated, through co-sponsoring, to participate in the on-line preparatory course during the 2008 academic year. Last year’s undertaking recorded an 80 percent success rate.
Outlining the initiative, Vice President of GoGSAT, Shalette East, explained that the programme, which is tailored for Jamaican primary school students, features some 6000 practice questions, covering the curricula for Grades Four to Six. Subject areas covered include: English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science, and Communication Tasks. Additionally, she said, the curriculum is presented in self-contained units, such as full practice tests, notes, games, and stories. GoGSAT also features an educational game, incorporating aspects of the GSAT curriculum, which is also tailored for local students.
“The system provides an easy and convenient environment for test taking, while giving students the experience necessary to succeed in their examinations. Since its inception, GoGSAT has assisted thousands of children, and is used in over 100 schools in Jamaica,” Miss East said. “We are very proud to be the largest test bank in the island, with an assimilated test environment, that not only makes learning fun and interactive, but also ensures effectiveness with high quality material,” she outlined.
She said since the pilot phase and USAID/COMET’s subsequent involvement, consequent on the success yielded, the agency commissioned the development of a community safety and security courseware, specifically intended to reduce the drop out rate in schools, while strengthening support for local community policing partnerships.The programme features pre and post tests; comprehensive models; end of unit generative strategies; end of module tests; help desk assistance; and an integrated community safety and security game.
“We are pleased to embark on an academic approach to equip and impact the relevant safety and security knowledge to primary school students. We believe that this will be fun and effective in assisting to tackle the problems affecting the safety and security needs of our children,” Miss East stated.
Deputy Director of USAID Jamaica’s Office of Sustainable Development, Sean Osner, noted that USAID/COMET recognised that community transformation requires the engagement of key stakeholders in strategic partnerships that can help Jamaica win the war against crime; ensure development and safety of Jamaica’s youth; and create safer and more prosperous communities. He said USAID has been working with its partners – the JCF and SDC- to assist in the roll-out of community policing in 38 communities, in all 19 police divisions across Jamaica. We see more and more that community policing requires problem -solving partnerships between residents and the police, that will allow them to work together to address issues of crime and disorder. We have also seen that it is important to engage young people in these partnerships,” he said.
Mr. Osner noted that the programme’s success last year was sufficient encouragement for the agency to expand its support this year.The initiative was also publicly endorsed by Senior Ministry of Education Officer in the Guidance and Counselling Unit, Antoinette Brooks, and Senior Superintendent of Police in charge of Community Safety and Security Branch, Iris McCalla Gordon.