(Jamaica Observer) JUZZLE Sayles worked hard in school and made her mother proud, but despite having 16 Caribbean Examination Council passes she has been unable to secure a job, and her parents are unable to find money for her to pursue further studies.
After completing close to 50 job applications and facing equal rejections, the 21-year-old Edith Dalton James High School and Camperdown High School past student is now appealing publicly for a job.
The Jamaica Observer learnt of Sayles’ plight from her mother, Sophia Thompson, who was a guest at Wednesday’s launch of the National Poverty Reduction Programme at Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.
Thompson was among parents whose children are beneficiaries of the Programme of Advancement Through Health and Education (PATH).
The event was hosted to outline Jamaica’s Vision 2030 plan to reduce the prevalence of poverty to fewer than 10 per cent of the population by 2030.
Thompson, who herself holds seven CSEC subjects but has been unemployed for more than 20 years, said that she has long theorised that it is difficult for the majority of inner-city children to get a fair shot at life.
The family lives in Cassava Piece, a low-income community in St Andrew.
The mother said that Sayles, the eldest of her four children, was fired from her business process outsourcing (BPO) job after just a year. However, Thompson insisted that her daughter’s dismissal was a case of victimisation. She also said that her daughter is a hard worker.
She said she was not able to fund Sayles beyond upper sixth form and her brother Zienden beyond lower sixth form. The mother said that she had signed up for a grant from the National Youth Service, but to date has not received a callback from the government-run institution.
“It’s difficult and disheartening because they go to school and get their education, did so well, and now they come out and still not into a job. Everywhere she sent her résumé or applied for have rejected her. Sometimes she’s at home she cries; sometimes I have to cheer her up. It hurts as a parent to see your child’s pain. It hurts,” Thompson told the Observer.
While arguing that getting a job in Jamaica requires “links”, the 40-year-old woman appealed to organisations to reach out to her daughter who, she believes, “will not be a disappointment”.
“It’s not only my children who are feeling it. You have others here in the ghetto who are not getting the opportunity. You tell them to get up and go to school; you tell them volunteer their time and when they do and perform well they are met with disappointment. They sign up for the police force from the youth club and not even that they can get through with,” Thompson argued.
After speaking with the mother at her home, the Observer went to downtown Kingston to speak with Sayles, who was attending a BPO training session.
Sayles said that the “typical” responses to her applications she has received from companies range from ‘we have received your application’ to ‘we will call you’.
“It’s draining; it’s difficult and I am sometimes depressed. I see myself in the media, but I at least need to pursue a university education before I can get there. I am not asking for money; I am asking for a job to work and send myself to school because when you take a loan to go to school, finish and you are not able to get a job, how do you pay back that loan?” she reasoned.
Her passes include food and nutrition, law, sociology, communication studies, Caribbean studies, English language, social studies, home economics, information technology, and mathematics. Some of these she pursued at the CAPE level units one and two.
She also volunteers at the Constant Spring Youth Club where she serves as vice-president. There, she mentors children, for whom she at times uses the money she saved from her former BPO job to provide them with lunch money and dinner in order to prevent them from missing school.
Whenever. she does that she goes without food, she said.
“People wouldn’t understand how bad things are; you want a job and how hard and smart you will work if given the opportunity. I’m poor and this might be because of generational poverty, but I’m willing to get rid of that if I get a chance. Right now I am able to meet my basic needs, but when you have to share a room with your 19-year-old brother it’s a different story. Where I am now the conditions are not good, but I want to change that if I get a chance,” she stressed.
“I’m asking for help to pursue my dreams, my career. Sometimes people just say, ‘Oh, you just want a job’. No, I want to honestly make a better life for myself and my family. I just need a chance. I want to facilitate the kids I mentor. I love them dearly; they see me as a role model and if I can assist them I can break the cycle,” Sayles said.