School crisis shows that the Jamaican family is under attack

Editorial

School crisis shows that the Jamaican family is under attack

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

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Mr Karl Samuda, who has day-to-day responsibility for education, has our sympathy for his distress regarding the increasing loss of control over indisciplined students in schools.

Like everyone else, it seems Mr Samuda is at his wits' end as to what to do to regain control of the schools.

In our view, his threat to introduce “harsh measures” to stem the tide of indiscipline is itself a clear sign of sheer desperation.

Indeed, his boss, Prime Minister Andrew Holness sounded equally desperate on the weekend when he also threatened harsh measures, including legislation, to punish parents whose unruly children disrupt the operation of schools.

Both gentlemen comprise the top tier of the leadership of our education system and their apparent worry is a call to the entire Jamaica to get involved or, as the Children's Advocate Mrs Diahann Gordon Harrison puts it, take charge of the action of their children.

The problem of indiscipline and violence in schools is not one that can be solved by pointing fingers at anyone. This is a time when every Jamaican has to be engaged, for it is our very future which is at risk. It truly takes a village.

A large proportion of our population comprises Jamaicans who remember growing up in an era when adults were responsible for all the children in the community. Parents could leave and not fret for the safety and well-being of their children, who understood that the adults also had the unspoken authority to discipline them.

Teachers were symbols of authority and respect, and knew that they had the full support of the parents to discipline their children. And even though the times were not perfect, we did not have the rash of violent incidents seen in recent weeks.

These include the attacks by students on the principal of Homestead Primary School in St Catherine; the deans of discipline at Oracabessa High School in St Mary and at Cornwall College in Montego Bay, St James, among others as seen in social media videos.

The prime minister pointed to a recent incident in Portmore in which two students had been involved in a fight and the father of one of the children threatened to shoot up the school, leaving teachers in fear.

President of the People's National Party Women's Movement Jennifer Edwards reported cases of armed men and parents turning up at schools to attack teachers and students.

And, as if all that were not enough, a video circulating on social media shows schooboys hurling the most disgusting and vulgar insults at a female teacher who chose not to respond to their despicable behaviour.

No doubt we are at the point where the Jamaican family is under attack. It is the duty of every one of us to deal with this crisis in our schools.

It is our view that the Ministry of Education should immediately put together school safety and security teams consisting of representatives of the community, the ministry, Office of the Children's Advocate, Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Jamaica Constabulary Force, Parenting Commission, National Students Council, supported by social workers in every parish, to be speedily mobilised at short notice.

The unwise call by the JTA for the resumption of caning as a form of disciplining unruly students, and the verbal clash between the children's advocate and JTA President Owen Speid are further signs of the panic that is setting in.

There is no time to dawdle or dilly-dally.


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