Pet Peeves of the education system

The world is a collection of diversities from the shape of the clouds to the species of trees and insects, to shades of our skin and the colour of our eyes as humans.  Even our hands, which are in principle the same; each finger has different finger prints.

multiracial

Furthermore, when we measure we do not use the same unit of measurement for a bottle of water as we do for a bar of chocolate.

Where am I taking you with these seemingly random comments?  Nowhere else but a nonstop ticket to our ‘glorified’ education system.  Given all the diversity found so naturally in our ecosystem one question remains to be answered, ‘Why do we use one generic method of force-feeding our children information and expect each child to do well?’

I am an avid believer in the Ministry of Education’s slogan ‘Every child can learn, every child must learn,’ however there is a critical flaw in the Ministry’s approach in attempting to make this statement true. Just like the natural diversity illustrated by the planet, a diverse means of teaching is required to reach every child as indeed each child is capable of learning but at different paces and through different means.

It is therefore necessary that I attack the blatant issues that keep me awake at night.

First, the core of the education system must be examined.  This of course is the labelling process which comes to fruition from childhood education into ‘bright’ and ‘dunce’.  Many may see no issue with such a process as it is seen as the norm but it is a severe problem as this labelling creates a rigid dichotomy from the initial stages.  This dichotomy creates the mindset of being a failure in the minds of young children who have been labelled as ‘dunce’ by a generic model of education which does not cater to the vast cross-section of thinking that exists in children.  Can you imagine the psychological effects this can have on a child?

Psychological effects such as the self-fulfilling prophecy.  The term “selfmirror-fulfilling prophecy” (SFP) was coined in 1948 by Robert Merton to describe “a false definition of the situation evoking a new behavior which makes the originally false conception come true.”

In the words of my grandmother “the tongue have power!” Dear education system, this is not OK!

To add to this already sad reality that exists for normally functioning kids, our system fails to adequately recognize children with learning disabilities such as autism, dyscalculia and dyslexia to name a few.  The earlier the recognition of such disabilities the better for the child and the parents who should be assisted and given access special facilities.  This illustrates that the very foundation (early childhood) of our education is weak.

Another dilemma is the idea of success that is painted by society itself where a child is only ‘successful’ when pursuing professions such as being a lawyer, doctor or nurse.  These professions belong to the service industry which although important is not the avenue for economic growth that is desperately needed in Jamaica.  The industry that will pave the path for the growth is that of the manufacturing industry as production creates productivity.  Hence, the persons with skills in engineering, farming, industrial trades, construction trades, computer science and entrepreneurship are a necessity.  Thus, our education system and our culture need to expose children to the wide variety of career fields available to them and not simply the traditional fields.  Each child needs to know that they have a niche and the education system should be such that they can find it.

Every talent, skill or ability is useful.  The Jamaican government needs to recognize this and harness the untapped potential of the youth.  The education system’s unilateral approach leaves too many behind which should not be case.  In the 21st century where there is so much knowledge and techniques at our fingertips, it is a shame that so many of our children get lost in the system.  In fact, they may leave school without the core skills because of the ‘one size must fit all mentality.’

Of course, you may challenge my critiques by saying we do not have the money for such radical reform.  However, I put it to you that our current system is way more costly when school leavers are unable to gain employment and turn to crime or rely on handouts to survive.  There are so many potholes in our education system much like our roads which simple patching will not resolve.  A complete reconstruction is necessary and I kindly ask the authorities to examine the effectiveness of the education system and fix the numerous issues that arise.  I assure you that after remedying education, many other chronic problems will be significantly reduced.

S. Davis

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Protector or Perpetrator?

Growing up in Jamaica I always heard that it takes a village to raise a child. The village was expected to provide the necessary care, protection and guidance to the child until he or she became an adult. That notion found support in  the International Conventions that Jamaica adopted, notably the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention on the  Rights of the Child was guided by the Declaration of the Rights of the Child adopted by the General Assembly in 1959. The Declaration stated that “the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity needs special; safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth.” Adults were thus given the duty and responsibility to care for children. But what happens when the persons who have been tasked with protecting them become the ones hurting them?

In May, four high school teachers in Clarendon were charged with child molestation and sexual assault. The commanding officer for the Clarendon Police, Senior Superintendent Fitz Bailey reported that they received information that one of the girl’s father was aware of, and helped, to facilitate his daughter’s engagement in sexual activities with men on the premises. He even received money from the men which he was using to send his daughter to school.

That girl had no one in her corner as those who were tasked with protecting her were using her for their own benefit with no care for her welfare. The police must be applauded for finding and apprehending the perpetrators. However, any attempt at ‘bigging up’ the police   should be done with some restraint as members of the police force have themselves taken on the role of perpetrators.

In April, a district constable in Kingston was caught brazenly having sex with a 14 year old girl at a police station! With this reality who does a child turn to for refuge?

cry

One can argue that the church may be a source of refuge. But even members of the church have come up lacking. In May 2015, it was reported in the Gleaner that a 53 year old pastor in Westmoreland was charged with having sex with a child under the age of 16 and  grievous sexual assault.

It takes a village to raise a child. So has the Jamaican village failed? I think we have.

Citizens turn a blind eye to teenage girls and older men having relationships robbing them of their innocence. Who is protecting our children when those who have a duty of care to do so themselves become active perpetrators?

Statistics show that most children who have been abused were hurt by someone who they know.

In the light of what is happening we need to provide comprehensive sexuality education for our children. Children need to know it is okay to speak up if they are touched in a  manner that is uncomfortable. We also need to do away with the notion that “it is not my business what happens behind closed doors” or that “the problem should be kept within the family.” When we do that we are giving perpetrators a haven in which to operate. Victims of child abuse often say that tried to speak out but no one believed them; or that they didn’t say anything because they thought no one would.

We need to recreate the villages that use to take care of our children. The laws alone cannot do it. What good is the law when we don’t speak or act when we know that people are hurting our children?

stop

Instead of saying “a just bad she bad”, report sexual grooming. Instead of saying it was the girl who forced herself onto a man. Report the man because he and not her is the adult, thus, he should know better.

Our role is to educate children to make informed decisions later in life. But as we all know children live what they learn. By keeping quiet and not acting, we are teaching our children that it is normal for a 14 year old to have ‘sex’ with a 35 year old. When in truth that is a sexual offence. We are also teaching them that their voice is not valid when they tell us that they have been abused, and we refuse to acknowledge or believe it.

As Jamaicans, it is our responsibility to look out for our children. With the traditional protectors namely teachers, pastors, police and parents taking on the roles as perpetrators; we should be more vigilant and proactive about the safety and innocence of our girls and boys. Let us give them the benefit of the doubt, families should be nurturing and the first barrier of protection.

We as neighbours, friend of the family and even complete strangers should take a stance. Our village is failing and if something is not done immediately it will be gone forever.

-Harris.