SANDALS Negril has embarked on a programme to provide support for the Hanover-based Rhodes Hall High School which is faced with its fair share of challenges.
Of late the school has seen an upsurge in student absenteeism, indiscipline, violent behaviour and substance abuse.
These concerns have become increasingly urgent, especially in the aftermath of the worst impact of COVID-19 in which schools across the island closed face-to-face classes for extended periods.
Recently the Jamaica Observer highlighted a students and teachers march from the school into Orange Bay Square to bring awareness to chronic truancy.
Against this background Sandals Negril, in collaboration with the National Council on Drug Abuse and the Green Island police, visited the school in Orange Bay.
The team of 12 established a strong presence at the institution as part of an effort to address the societal maladies that have been plaguing it.
“Our school population has dwindled from a cohort of 1058 students to 786 students,” lamented Camille Drummond-Buchanan, the vice-principal of Rhodes Hall High.
“Absenteeism and all the other issues that we are facing here have really inhibited our progress,” added Drummond-Buchanan who underscored the significance of the recent session spearheaded by Sandals Negril as she expressed gratitude on behalf of the secondary institution.
Fondly dubbed the Educon-Care Initiative by Gregory Hewitt, the school’s dean of discipline, the intervention programme was brought to life by spirited presentations from the Sandals Negril entertainment team.
The momentum was sustained as various partners engaged members of the student body. Critical issues including the repercussions of deviant behaviour and drug abuse, as well as the long-term consequences of truancy, were discussed in detail with a heavily invested student population.
“This initiative is definitely a step in the right direction,” said Inspector Mervin Hodges from the Green Island police. “It will surely have a positive impact on the school and the community at large,” added Hodges.
Substance abuse officer for Westmoreland, Orain Rudduck also lauded the collective effort and echoed previously the sentiments that this initiative should be good for the entire school population.
“The students stand to greatly benefit from the intervention. This approach should aid in the reduction of many of the violent issues that have been unfolding in the school and in the wider community,” said Rudduck.
With high hopes of new beginnings for the institution and having created meaningful connections with the student and staff faculty, Sandals Negril has made a commitment to continue its involvement in the school’s rehabilitation process.
Future sessions, which will be geared towards education, conflict resolution, career development and community contribution, are slated to take place over the course of the next several months.
“I have no doubt that the Educon-Care Initiative will help the students to realise their full potential and shift their mindset to a positive one,” said Damian Williams, assistant security, loss prevention and transportation manager at Beaches Negril.
The students, too, are hopeful that change will spring forth as a result of the social intervention programme.
Brianna Kerr, a grade 10 pupil, passionately expressed her optimism and commended the joint approach to resolving the school’s challenges.
“A partnership like this is what Rhodes Hall really needs. Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much,” said Kerr.