CHAIRMAN of e-Learning Jamaica Company Ltd (e-LJam) Yvonne McCalla-Sobers says students should not be turned away from school for breaches of school uniform rules by wearing tight pants and short skirts.
At the same time, McCalla-Sobers — a human rights activist — has urged teachers to engage wayward students and get to the root of their problems rather than sending them home because the wearing of the incorrect uniform.
“For me, suspending children cannot be the answer for an educational institution. It’s like going to hospital when you are sick and you are told you can’t come in because you are wearing shorts,” she told the Jamaica Observer.
McCalla-Sobers, who is better known as a human rights advocate, said a number of students who break school uniform rules are seeking attention or are disconnected to what is happening in the classroom.
Her stance is in contrast to that of Education Minister Rev Ronald Thwaites who has expressed support for school principals who have refused entry to students wearing the wrong uniforms to school.
“Those standards of dress, the tight pants and the short skirts, should be but a symbol of an increased direction for discipline and the reestablishment of discipline in the schools. This is to be supported, as the school is not a romping shop. It is a place for learning and character building,” Thwaites said last week in the House of Representatives as he opened the debate on the National Parenting Support Commission Act 2012.
During the first week of the new academic year, a number of girls were sent home for wearing skirts that were deemed too short, while boys were sent home for wearing tight-fitting pants.
But McCalla-Sobers, who taught in the United Kingdom before returning to Jamaica where she taught mathematics and history at Jamaica College, suggested schools set up a special room for rule-breaking students “where some learning is taking place”.
She suggested that teachers and guidance counsellors spend time talking with the students about the issues affecting them. “It’s not enough to send them home. Sending them home is a joy for those who didn’t want to come in the first place. Remember when we were children, putting on lipstick and sneaking out in the fashion of the day,” she said.
McCalla-Sobers said she hopes to use the e-learning programme to tackle the challenges of indiscipline facing young people such as the dropout rate and low performance, especially among males.
She said the e-learning programme could also ease the problem of high student to teacher ratio in classrooms by having some students work on computers while others are being taught directly by the teacher.
Established in 2006, e-LJam seeks to utilise information and communication technology to contribute to an improvement in the quality of education in high schools.
There are plans to roll out the programme in primary and pre-primary schools in another year.