Those locking out children from school should ask themselves the 'what if' question


Those locking out children from school should ask themselves the 'what if' question

Monday, November 04, 2019

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For many, many years there has been the recurring story of students being locked out of school and/or sent back home for all sorts of reasons.

In the most recent cases, we are hearing that lateness is the problem.

There have also been instances of students being blocked at the school gate for dress code breaches such as trousers being too tight and skirts too short.

This, although successive governments have consistently instructed schools to desist from the practice.

Other ways have to be found to deal with tardiness, dress code breaches and the like, the Ministry of Education has said.

Amid public outcry following the most recent reports of student lockout, we have read of a defence from Camperdown High School Principal Mr Valentine Bailey.

The education ministry, he said, must wake up. “A lot of the kids, because they are told that the school can't close the gate, they take their sweet time at the bus stops. They go and buy food and then they saunter to school. Now, I don't know any self-respecting high school that allows students to waltz through the gate at 10:30 am and 11:00 am. That, to me, makes no sense,” he told this newspaper.

It seems to us that Mr Bailey, like some other school leaders, has lost sight of a very simple but extremely important fact, which is that, by law, children (minors) are under the care and protection of adults.

When those children leave the home and get to school they become the responsibility of the adults at school.

No amount of argument and debate will allow anyone to get away from that simple, basic fact.

Mr Bailey, his fellow educators and school leaders should ask themselves the 'what if' question.

What if something goes wrong?

What if a child hanging around outside the locked school gate is hit by a passing motor vehicle? What if a child returning home after being locked out is abducted or lured away by unscrupulous, ruthless, evil people?

Crucially, not only does Jamaican law insist on the care and protection of children, the country is signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In that respect, school isn't only a place for learning. For those in the vulnerable, growing up years, school is home away from home. It's a place that should be totally committed to the care and protection of children.

Indeed, for many Jamaican children, home and its environs are so broken and dysfunctional that school becomes the only place where positive values are learnt.

Those positives, including gaining an education, won't be had if children are blocked from school.

We hear the cry that school leaders are at their wits' end regarding the consistent breaching of rules and the non-cooperation of delinquent parents. That's a matter to be handled in partnership with the authorities including the education ministry, childcare agencies, police, et al.

None of that frustration should be allowed to compromise a school's responsibility to take care of and protect children.

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