Can you guess why all of these school children are dressed in costumes? No, Jamaica doesn’t celebrate Halloween in June (or at all, for that matter). It’s Career Day!
Recently, our students forwent their uniforms and instead came to school dressed as their aspirational profession for a day full of career talks and presentations facilitated by past students and people from the surrounding communities.
Many schools in Jamaica have adopted the concept of Career Day to draw links between education and career.
As is the case in the US and much of the world, Jamaican students who do poorly in primary school are often shuffled through the system until they graduate from a sub-par secondary school, or worse, never complete secondary school at all. By exposing children to real professionals who help to reinforce the message that as young students they are full of potential, we hope to encourage them to set high educational standards for themselves.
A lot of students just ended up coming in their nicest clothes and calling themselves “teacher” or “pastor,” or whatever else they could fudge. It’s no fun to be the only one wearing your school uniform, and despite the relative affordability of tailors in Jamaica, not everyone’s parents can afford to (or choose to) have a costume made for the day.
True to Jamaican style, our event was planned in less than a week. I’m continually amazed by Jamaicans’ ability to pull together a great event on such short notice, but more than once I’ve watched as things fall right into place.
Our Career Day included a pastor who was once a police officer and trained as a soldier in the Jamaica Defense Force, a teacher, bankers, a chef, a sports professional, an aspiring diplomat and a Parish Counsellor. They spoke about their path into their field, did hands-on demonstrations, and shared motivational messages with our students.
Many of the professionals who came to share are past students of the school in their 20s, so it was easy for the students to connect their stories to those being shared. Days like these can be so meaningful when students meet young role models who are doing positive, constructive things with their lives.
I found myself learning lots from my friends who came to share, plus it was cool to see them captivating our students. Lots of feel-good vibes that day.
The students sing a song during morning devotion that says, “I am a promise. I am a possibility…I am a great big bundle of potentiality!” These kids are the future, and that’s the whole point – to help them recognize just how bright their futures could be.
So, what were the most popular careers that our students want to pursue? For the boys: soldier. For the girls: nurse.
Jamaica’s unemployment rate at the end of 2014 was about 13.4%, with youth unemployment at more than twice the national average at 38.5% for ages 18-24. Reasons for unemployment vary, but one of the most highly stated is the lack of job opportunities available. The tourism industry is tied with remittances from abroad as the top source of revenue in Jamaica.