THE embattled Hopewell High School in Hanover has again been placed under the microscope, this time with reports of daily sexual acts by students on properties situated close to the institution.
Apart from indulging in sexual activities, smoking of ganja is also rampant off property, the Jamaica Observer has found out. The matter appears to have got out of control and the school’s management has not been able to reduce or prevent the activities.
Even as the school year ended last Friday, fear has deepened that the new academic year will begin in September without the matter being sufficiently addressed by authorities.
“Every day these students leave the compound to engage in sexual activity,” a veteran school official told the Sunday Observer last week.
“This situation is continuing and getting worse, and nobody seems to want to do anything about it,” the official added.
Hopewell High, which opened on September 4, 2006, has been saturated in an ocean of woe in recent times, what with the suspension of its first and only principal, Joyce Irving, amid claims of widespread corruption at the co-educational institution.
But with Irving’s forced suspension last January to facilitate a probe into the administration of the school, there has been no improvement in the general conduct at the institution, nor has there been an upgrade in the administrative structures that will lead to greater efficiency, members of the school’s fraternity have complained to the Sunday Observer.
Documents obtained by the Sunday Observer confirm acts of irregularities that the board of directors are yet to resolve, even with the introduction of Education Officer Leonie Dunwell, who has been acting in the 58-year-old Irving’s absence.
The school’s property was fenced when it opened its doors, but thieves have since broken down and stolen chunks of the chain-link fence, while students have cut openings in other sections as they go on their sexual journeys.
The sex spots are varied, ranging from dense, bushy locations close to the school, to as far away as perhaps one of the most popular spots called ‘The Cave’, literally an underground spot structured like a small cave, close to Phase Two of the upscale Orchard Housing Scheme owned by an expatriate capitalist.
There, a mattress was found last year, presumably used by students whose testosterone levels had shot up to remarkable proportions.
“The students have sex off the property daily. Sometimes you will even hear them talking about going down in the bushes to do it, even with adults hearing them clearly.
“Even if they don’t use that old mattress that was found at ‘The Cave’, they just do it on the ground and don’t even care. The big concern is that these students often engage in unprotected sex, and there have been several girls who have dropped out of school, many of them under age 16.
“Right now there is a girl at home with a baby. She is 13, and her ‘baby father’ is still at school; he is around 16 and in grade 10,” another source said.
School Board Chairman Hervin Stennett, a retired policeman told the Sunday Observer that he has heard of the sexual activities but had nothing “official” on the matter.
“I am getting bits and pieces of information, nothing official. It’s an offcampus situation, but the relevant authorities are checking up on it,” said Stennett, who is also a pastor.
A Ministry of Education official gave the Sunday Observer names of 21 girls who have dropped out of school because of pregnancy in the last 18 months, most of them under age 16.
In addition, the school accepts girls from other institutions who have attained the status of motherhood, based on a Ministry of Education policy of reintegrating them in schools after they have given birth.
The frequent sexual activity too, is a source of concern for some parents, some of whom have moved to transfer their grade seven young ones in particular to other institutions, fuelled by the sex situation, as well as other factors surrounding administration.
While up-to-date figures were not immediately available, cases of teenage pregnancy appear to be high, based on a count of some female students who have dropped out of the school in recent years to have babies.
“Sometimes you see students coming from the bushes daily and we all know that they are not coming from agricultural science classes, yet the school’s management seems powerless to reprimand them for even leaving the main compound, which they are not allowed to do without written permission.
“Some of the teachers cannot talk to these students, because they would be attacked. They take knives and machetes to school, items like scissors, ice picks, and other things made by them.
“Many of these unruly students are also heavily into bleaching their faces and even though you sometimes try to talk them out of it, they never stop,” yet another source said.
One tactic used by students is to ask for bathroom breaks, and when they are allowed out of class, they often disappear.
“Every minute some of them want to go to the bathroom and they just don’t come back for the rest of the day. Some of them can be seen in Hopewell town dressed in regular clothes. They just don’t stay in class, primarily because a lot of them can’t read and are not willing to learn to read,” the source suggested.
Hopewell High is one of Jamaica’s lowest ranked schools, according to recent education surveys.
The latest one put out by EducateJamaica.org rated Hopewell High in the top 10 worst performing schools islandwide, with only two per cent out of a possible 100 per cent. The ratings are based on the schools’ success in five subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate level.
Hopewell High came out in 156th position of the 161 schools surveyed, ahead of Denham Town High (1.7 per cent) Paul Bogle High (1.5 per cent), Innswood High (0.9 per cent), Trench Town High (0.8 per cent), and Robert Lightbourne High in last place with zero per cent.
Immaculate Conception High School was the topranked school at 100 per cent, the survey stated.
“Hopewell needs to get students coming from the GSAT (Grade Six Achievement Test) stage who can read. Right now we are getting students leaving primary school who cannot do basic reading. That has to change,” the veteran official said.
The school often gets some students who perform between zero and 30 in the GSAT.