Jamaica
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Msgr Gladstone Wilson College aiming to give special attention to boys

WESTERN BUREAU:

Two years after it started online classes, the Monsignor Gladstone Wilson College, Montego Bay’s second boys’ high school, opened its doors for face-to-face classes this week.

The Roman Catholic Church-operated school is neighbour to Cornwall College, the city’s 127-year-old government-owned boys’ school, and Mount Alvernia High, another Catholic school.

It has been twinned with Campion College in St Andrew, which will also offer virtual lessons, and Mount Alvernia High, which will allow classroom accessibility where necessary.

Roughly 30 boys are enrolled in the school’s seventh, eighth and 11th grades.

“The curriculum mirrors that of the best Catholic high schools, while emphasising discipline and Christian living,” Catholic deacon and former Education Minister Ronald Thwaites told The Gleaner.

“What we do say is that the spirit of generosity, the living for others, the care of the vulnerable, the respect for God’s creation, this is the essence of the Christian message in the Beatitudes, and that’s what we’re going to inculcate for them, and they must agree to that and they must participate with this,” said Thwaites, who has responsibility for Catholic education in Jamaica.

Thwaites said that Jamaica needs to be appreciative of the strides that have been made in education, noting that close to 300,000 students are enrolled in high schools from Grade Seven to Grade 13 islandwide, compared to some 10,000 at Independence in 1962.

“Every child from age three to age 18 has a place in school. We need to give thanks, give thanks to the taxpayers, and give credit to the governments, churches and other agencies that have brought this about,” he said.

Thwaites credited National Security Minister and St James North Western Member of Parliament Dr Horace Chang, who is a former Cornwall College head boy, and his wife, Paulette, an educator, who both felt there was a need for such an institution.

“Mrs Chang has always felt that boys needed special attention, and Dr Chang and I reasoned about the need for boys’ education in Montego Bay and we came up with the idea of the all-boys institution,” Thwaites explained.

Boys, he noted learn at a different pace than girls and, for that and other reasons, they sometimes see no merit in education and get deflected.

“And we know what kind of social problem ... that causes,” he said.

Thwaites admitted that they had hoped that Government would have joined with the Church at the outset and sent students there for sixth form as well as some grant-in-aid students for the seventh grade, but that did not materialise.

He is, however, not disillusioned, reasoning that the churches in Jamaica own or sponsor almost half of all of the public education institutions. The Catholic Church has about 120 schools at all levels from early childhood to tertiary, and the Anglicans and the United Church have even more.

At the helm of the Monsignor Gladstone Wilson College is former Cornwall College and St George’s College vice-principal, Dave Soares, as headmaster, and Deacon Dr Selbourne Hemmings, as chairman.

Soares told The Gleaner on Monday that what they are trying to replicate is a learning environment not only about academics, but also about social education, to mould the students into better citizens.

The students pay a minimum fee of $81,000 per year, with the rest subsidised by the Catholic diocese in Toronto, Soares told The Gleaner.

Shernette Crichton, a parent whose 12-year-old son is gifted, said that he needs to be in smaller classes to grow.

She believes his talents will be recognised at Monsignor Gladstone Wilson College, as he learns differently and is more practical.

“He will solve a Rubik’s cube in two minutes or less. He builds puzzles. And I hope this institution will draw on those gifts and talents so that he can contribute positively,” Crichton said.

One of the students, Richando Gordon, said that, while he was disappointed that he did not get the chance to attend the school that he passed for, he still considers attending Monsignor Gladstone Wilson College an amazing opportunity.

“I think this school will change my life. Less students, more attention. The school is amazing,” he stated.

janet.silvera@gleanerjm.com