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Poverty Stifling Family’s Potential
Published: Wednesday | April 3, 2013 4 Comments

Debbie Fung with her children, Prince Mais and Christopher Hyatt. Prince has not been attending school regularly while three-year-old Christopher has never gone to school. – Ian Allen/Photographer
Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer

Despite her last school report registering 46 days of absence in one school year, 17-year-old Conni-Lee Mais has managed to earn near-perfect grades.

However, like the proverbial children of Sisyphus, Conni-Lee and her younger brother, Prince Mais, might not get far despite being admired as the two of seven siblings most likely to break the cycle of poverty in their family residing in the Blackstonedge community of rural St Ann.

As is the case with countless poor rural children across the island, “money problem” is one of the main reasons for them not turning up for school on a daily basis.

“I try my best to send them, but when I can’t send them, a just so,” said mother Debbie Fung who makes a living from subsistence farming and raises three school-age children.

An examination of the Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions 2010 shows the impact of “money problem” on school attendance is that the number of children in rural areas who failed to turned up for school because of an inability to find money for bus fare and lunch almost doubles the record for those in the Kingston Metropolitan Area.

When closely examined, Conni-Lee’s last report shows her scoring an A in cosmetology, A in English language, A in English literature, B in information technology, B in integrated science, A in mathematics, C in music, A in physical education, B in religious education, and B in social studies.


Carol Smith, Conni-Lee’s former primary-school teacher who has kept close tabs on the teenager and her family over the years, testifies of her always doing well in school. Smith, however, points out that the challenges she faces at home might stifle her chances of one day breaking the cycle of poverty in her family.

“Even when I went to her school last year, I remember her name being called as the top student in her class,” said Smith, who is a teacher at St George’s All-Age.

Mindful of her situation, the fifth-form student at Guy’s Hill High School has already ruled out attending sixth form, saying that “I would go to sixth form, but mi know Mommy cannot afford it”.

She is contemplating repeating grade 11 as the family was unable to come up with funds for her to sit her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations.

The St George’s All-Age School teacher also testifies that nine-year-old Prince is “full of potential, but like his sister, he does not attend school regularly. The register shows that between September 2012 and January 2013, he has been present at school only 25 times.

At nine years old, Prince Mais spends most of his time writing music. Surprisingly though, he harbours hope of one day becoming a soldier.

“He is a child with a lot of potential, but he needs constant supervision to ensure that he comes to school regularly. He writes worse than a grade-one child, but when he reads – it doesn’t matter how big the word is – he will use whatever phonetic skills and call the words,” Smith said.


The children’s mother pointed to the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH), one of the Government’s chief social programmes for providing funding to poor families, as one means by which she might be able to rescue her children from the poverty cycle. She noted, however, that she has been having trouble getting on the programme because of missing birth certificates she claimed got destroyed when she lost her house in a fire months ago.

“Even before then, I could not get on the programme. I went to the PATH office in St Ann’s Bay and they promised to send someone to the house to assess the situation and, until now, I don’t see anyone,” she said.

The mother said she would be seeking to have the birth certificates replaced, but is unable to do so now because of a lack of funds.

As she contemplates her next move, the hope of a promising generation hangs in the balance.

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5 Responses to POVERTY’S CHAINS

  • Real says:

    MI LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOve da likkle yute here…………di ppl dem a do dem ethnic dance……mi nuh si how it look gay .in di west yes bcause u know whats in the mind but di ting shottt

  • Real says:

    sorry wrong topic OMG …….this was for the song kukere

  • Anonymous says:

    Met! isnt there like I unicef fund available for persons in this situation? I am almost sure of this but failing that; the Methodist church has an organisation that helps those in their circuit- I think most ppl from St. Anns seek help from Cloisters Hall- mi nuh sure this cld be in the St. mary Circuit – any ways The Rev in chrage use to be Rev Micheal Graham- this may hve changed – bn a while since I sought help from them – If this woman could get there they are likely to help AND the Methodist give financial help for students to attend York Castle High – wish I could reserach this but I am in the middle of a messed up case – while there is life there is hope.

  • met, a wonder if yu coulda get a link .mek wi si whey wi can do.

  • Anonymous says:

    boy me no like read them things ya.. metting me know u always a help out.. see wah u can come up wid, u know u metter always willing fi help out..

    But my thing is I can afford it and i only have one.. birth control is easily available in jamaica so why 7 kids.. naa put my pickney dem through that.

    But met mek we know..

    (Original Goodas soon log in)

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