It was an afternoon of renewed purpose and untapped possibilities as 48 teen parents from across Jamaica were awarded grants and bursaries totalling $2.4million to help them reintegrate into the formal education system.
The awards, a brainchild of the Advancing Secondary, Tertiary Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers (A- STREAM) programme administered by the Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF), include 44 bursaries worth $40,000 each to 40 teen mothers and four fathers enrolled in high school or pursuing vocational training.
What’s more, four scholarships valued at $140,000 each, have been presented to four mothers who have matriculated to tertiary-level education.
These teenage mothers and fathers, surrounded by their parents, babies and mentors left the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston inspired and poised for greatness as the funds – which will cover tuition fees, books, uniforms, transportation and lunch – were presented at the A-STREAM awards ceremony on Tuesday (September 11).
Caribbean Regional Director of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Dr. Kevin Harvey, said the foundation is pleased to assist in improving the outcomes of the young people.
“We will try to do this as long as we can and provide the necessary support, so that you cannot only start school, you can finish. We are taking it to the end,” he said.
To this end, the AHF is supporting the initiative through $3.4 million to A-STREAM over a three-year period.
In her address, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange, commended the WCJF for its work over the last 40 years in providing adolescent mothers with continuing education during their pregnancy and having them reintegrated into the formal school system after the birth of their babies.
“The 47,000 girls, whom the programme for adolescent mothers has assisted to date, should be multiplied by two, in light of the fact that for every girl assisted there is likewise a child that benefits,” she argued.
Minister Grange used the opportunity to encourage all adolescent parents to not abandon their dreams for the future, despite reaching a hurdle in their life journey following the births of their children.
A-STREAM has three main components – mentorship, sponsorship and scholarship. Under the mentorship aspect, adolescent mothers are paired with persons who will encourage them to complete their education, while assisting them with critical life skills.