Much ado about very little

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Much ado about very little

THIS PRINCIPAL'S POINT

By Aretha P Willie

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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In a previous professional life, more than 15 years ago, I was presented with a case regarding religious liberty/freedom, and I would still make the decision I did then if presented again. It was at a reputable all-girls', Roman Catholic secondary level institution, when Jehovah Witness parents demanded that their daughter be excused from attending all devotional exercises. I was resolute that she must be in attendance, but was under no obligation to participate in the various rituals. Whilst they cited indoctrination, I rallied by stating that I had attended said institution as a student and was now employed for several years and was yet to convert. The decision stood, even after several trips to the Ministry of Education. The parents confessed to knowing the ethos of the institution before selecting it as a school of choice.

Now fast-forward to the present excitement. I definitely want to leap unto the bandwagon before it becomes overcrowded, or, worse yet, crashes. The mandate is not mine to condemn or condone the actions of the school administrators at Kensington Primary School or the Virgos, but to examine the issue from both standpoints, as best as possible.

One of the objectives of all educational institutions is to create favourable learning opportunities for their learners, but in a controlled and ordered environment. Therefore, the need for rules and guidelines become a matter of necessity.

In the same breath, conscious parents will always seek out the best educational opportunities for their children. This translates to registering in the premier school within their locale or even at great distances from home. This clearly is the case with the parents of ZV. They seemed quite intelligent, and I am certain that they would have conducted research before selecting a school for their daughter. Hence, the rule, now the issue of contention, should not have been a surprise.

The school, in all probability, created said rule because of past experiences, even though the issue of hygiene seems to be a weak one, in my estimation. The child in question is not a Rastafarian, but sports “sista locks”, which is merely for aesthetic purposes. The storm created by the media and others presents the issue as a religious one. It is not. Instead, it is an issue of personal preferences, rights and freedoms, if you may.

Whilst rights and freedoms cannot be ignored, neither can rules. Rules exist in every organisation, and in every sphere of life, from the simple to the sublime. They are important, and are usually crafted after much thought, consultation, and experience. Chaos would reign supreme in any home, organisation or country without rules. School administrators and their stakeholders do not create rules to engender malice or dissension, but to uphold or exceed established standards.

People have been voicing their opinions, informed or otherwise, especially about stifling our African heritage. Forgive my cynicism, but for many Jamaicans our Afrocentricity is a convenient one. We use the excuse after we have embraced the European and North American skin and hair products, which results in mostly irreparable damage. Only then do we discover Africa.

Our students are revered in many countries for their discipline and their excellence in achieving academically. This is as a result of the foundations that they were afforded in our Third World education system. We need to repair, not demolish. There are far too many non-experts wanting to impose their personal preferences and their much-travelled insights in offering solutions. They do not possess the slightest idea or skill needed to understand the intricacies of leading any educational institution.

As policymakers, we need to be extremely careful as we attempt to please all parties. Let's not be too hasty in referencing other countries' practices or normals. We are quite competent to create our own, and blaze our own trail. That's a lesson that we should have learnt from our ancestors.

This really is much ado about very little.

Aretha P Willie is a passionate educator, principal of George Headley Primary School, and a justice of the peace. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or arethawillie.ghps@hotmail.com.


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