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Are we playing hypocrites with our students' education?


Thursday, November 07, 2019

The issue of locking out students from school because of lateness and disciplinary infractions has resurfaced. As a result, there have been several conversations about the dangers students are at risk to because they have been locked out. What surprises me is that there is no conversation about the challenges schools have been facing for several years as it relates to students' indiscipline, which includes lateness for school.

As such, it raises the question: Are we playing hypocrites with our students' education?

There are arguments about the implications of achieving the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Vision 2030, the rights of the child, the various international conventions, and so on. In my view — although supporting the arguments to an extent — the real issue is that schools have instituted many alternatives, and still some students continue to violate basic rules.

After listening to the responses from the Government, I am oblivious as to why they don't have a clue as to what is happening on the ground. Hence, the questions have to be asked: Is the Government promoting a culture of lateness? Is the Government promoting a culture of total disregard for time?

The truth is that countries which are considered First World have serious respect for time, and this is embedded in their cultures. In my view, if children continue to arrive at school up to three hours after the start of the day, such lateness will also jeopardise the country achieving the 17 SDGs.

For those criticising the principals, are you saying that schools should just open their gates and allow students to arrive at any time they want, bleach their skin, and wear any type of clothing? Do you realise that disciplinary issues are affecting almost every school in the country? Even primary schools have to now employ deans of discipline. The values of our education system have been lost, and it is full time that we as a nation stop criticising the principals and come up with measures to curb the indiscipline in schools.

In an attempt to deal with the issue of late coming, the Ministry of Education suggested that schools have holding areas for students who are late. Holding areas are not classes, so students would still be missing out on lessons. Additionally, the ministry, in some instances, has not yet provided additional classrooms to accommodate overcrowding, much less provide holding areas. The other question is: Who is going to monitor the holding areas? Some schools are still short of teachers after school has been reopened for two months.

As a nation striving for First World status, let's think this through carefully. We need to stop being hypocrites and look at the data. If on any given day over 200 students are late for any school, then our country is in crisis. Yes, the right of the child is important, every child deserves an education, but will they achieve their full potential by being late?

What are the roles of the parents? Are schools a place for learning and to help to instil discipline or simply a daycare? What is the role of the Government? Are schools responsible for fixing the transportation system to ensure students arrive at school on time? Are you all aware that when students are late for classes it disturbs the teaching and learning process of all the other students who were early?

Schools are preparing students not just for academics. Schools are preparing students to respect time so that when they become adults they will contribute to the human capital of the country. Hence, there needs to be a national drive to change the negative behaviour of our students.

Are we preparing our children for the leadership roles of tomorrow by encouraging a culture of lateness, no respect for time, and total disregard for authority? The answer should guide us.


Patrick Williams is teacher/acting dean of discipline at Camperdown High School. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or