A new initiative aiming at saving teenage girls from dropping out of school was recently launched in Jamaica. The project, named A-STREAM – Advancing Secondary, Tertiary, Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers is set to be overseen by the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation.
The goal is to assist teenage mothers who are at risk of dropping out of school. It was set in place during Jamaica Foundation’s 40th Anniversary Charity Ball last weekend.
Olivia Grange, Jamaica’s Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport initiated the program after affirming that “no one must be left behind.”
“Over the years, the Women’s Centre has been able to reintegrate about 70% of its participants into the formal school system. But we are seeing where several of the girls are now at risk of dropping out of secondary school for a second time for reasons which include financial constraints and inadequate psycho-social support,” she said.
The project seeks to pair 40 adolescent mothers with mentors who will help the mother’s gain life skills while completing their education. Each mother will receive $316 for school costs, and tuition will be paid from a scholarship fund equaling $3,163, which will be awarded to mothers who have graduated to the tertiary level.
Minister Grange has tasked the Bureau of Gender Affairs to immediately provide the funds towards the scholarships and grants. She also made a plea to organizations and the public to provide additional funds and mentorship.
The Women’s Centre was formed in 1978, at a time when teenage pregnancy meant a drastically diminished quality of life.
Minister Grange stated, “pregnancy was like a death sentence for the adolescent girl; her health was endangered; her education would stop; her hopes and dreams would vanish; and she faced a life of poverty and dependency.”
Since it’s opening, The Women’s Centre has assisted 46,000 young mothers. During this time, Jamaica’s adolescent fertility rate has dropped from 131 per 1,000 to 54 per 1,000.
Minister Grange noted, “We are proud of the progress we have made, but we know we can do better still with your support.”