A special visitor spent quality time with students who are getting a second chance to learn critical numeracy and literacy skills to improve their employment prospects through Revive Academy at University of The Bahamas. The academy is an initiative under the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) of the Ministry of National Security.
Chief Magistrate Joyann Ferguson-Pratt, a UB alumna, was the guest speaker at the CSJP Goal Development Seminar, held on Friday, 30th April. Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt encouraged those enrolled in the programme to embrace positive behaviour and make good choices for better lives as their participation in the academy is a transformative opportunity.
“Don’t waste this opportunity,” she urged. “Don’t allow somebody who is going nowhere to tell you, ‘If I was you, girl I wouldn’t go to that; sitting up in class. What benefit that is to you?’ The reality is they are not you, and they are a loser. One loser plus another loser, what is that? That’s two losers. Let’s do the math. You’re smarter than that. Soar like an eagle, but the way you soar as an eagle, [means] you can’t hang out with pigeons. You cannot hang out with these low-lying birds. You’re not going to go anywhere.”
Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt lauded the Revive Academy initiative, asserting that the alternative is countless young people being hauled before the courts for engaging in unscrupulous behavior just to satisfy their basic needs.
“In my line of work I see young people every day, many of whom have lost their focus,” she said. “They’re too busy on what we call ‘immediate gratification’. They want this ‘thing’ and they want it bad, and they take whatever measure to get it. If it means stealing, if it means selling a little bit of drugs, if it means getting a gun, they will do whatever it takes to get there. But life is not as simple as that.
“Many times their journey is interrupted, and they come before me. And let me tell you something, if you embark upon a journey and you break the rules, then you must be man or woman enough to take the consequences.”
She urged the students to stay the course and complete the programme.
“So many of us are anointed to start,” Chief Magistrate Ferguson-Pratt said. “We start this, we start that. We can’t finish anything. But I want to entreat with you, as we take this journey, to make up in your mind; you started this course, there is numeracy and literacy, and all the other composite parts—finish everything that you start. It will benefit you, if not in the short run, it certainly will benefit you in the long haul. Make up in your mind, not only will you start the race, but you will finish the course.”
For the past several months, hundreds of youth enrolled in the programme who want to improve their job prospects and lives have returned to the classroom to learn basic mathematical, reading, and writing. In addition to teaching, UB is also making available the services of its Academic Counselling and Advisement department.
The chief magistrate’s words did not fall on deaf ears. Revive Academy student Shekinah Moncur said the students’ attendance is proof that they desperately want more for themselves than just being labeled as ‘at-risk’ youth.
“I just want to say congratulations to our youths, because they feel like we’re nothing,” said Ms. Moncur. “But we are something, and it shows.”
Ramon Cunningham said although the path to success appeared long and arduous, with an initiative like Revive Academy, the sky is the limit.
“I feel that this programme is very beneficial because a lot of people like myself got a second chance, second opportunity to show who they are or what they’re about,” said Mr. Cunningham. “As a young man in my adolescence, it’s kind of difficult. I know what it is for schools to either suspend you, or let you go, or say that you’re ‘at risk’, or say that you’re on academic probation; all that bad stuff. But I love that these people showed us the baton because we’re the next generation.”
The Revive Academy is a component of the Citizen Security Justice Programme (CSJP), which combines preventative strategies with institutional strengthening activities aimed at addressing some of the root causes of crime and criminal behavior. The focus is on four distinct areas – improving social behavior, increasing employment opportunities, enhancing the administration of justice, and reducing recidivism at corrections institutions.
UB’s consultants for the programme are: Dr. Maria Woodside Oriakhi, VP Academic Affairs; Dr. Lorraine Bastian Jones, Director, Continuing Education and Lifelong Learning; Mrs. Remelda Moxey, Dean of Business & Hospitality Studies; and Ms. Donna Williams, Head of Department, Culinary Arts and Tourism Studies.
Prospective students between the ages of 15 and 29 are the target group for the initiative. The CSJP is being funded by a loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).