Clergyman bemoans influence of social media, dancehall
Errol Rattray

FOUNDER and head of the Errol Rattray Evangelistic Association (EREA), an entity seized with addressing the spiritual and moral issues challenging Jamaica, has promised to revolt against any government which removes school devotions.

The Ministry of Education in October had indicated that it would be tempering the conduct of devotions in schools after several students at Oberlin High in St Andrew collapsed during the school's daily devotion. The move evoked an outcry from several groups and individuals, including the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), which warned the Ministry of Education against diminishing the role of devotions in places of learning.

Rattray, the man who spearheaded a national clean-up campaign during World Cup 2007 in the island, said removing devotions from schools would leave youngsters who in many instances have no spiritual guidance wide open to the moral decay sweeping the country.

"My father, every morning, all of us have to get up and have devotions. I know there are some persons who are not Christians so you can't put devotions in those homes in a family where you don't have Christians. That's why I would be against any government who takes devotions from schools because there are some children who never get an opportunity to have devotions but in school," Rattray told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.

According to the clergyman, a recent survey which showed that 70 per cent of children do not attend church is an indicator of what is at the root of the disruptive behaviour being seen in schools.

"They don't go to church, they are not influenced by Christian values, what they hear is the influence on social media and the dancehall and what they hear from their friends. That's why there is so much indiscipline in our schools with our children," the 70-year-old Rattray stated.

"I think at my age and stage I have a responsibility to give guidance to be a part of the solution. I will not stand by and allow any government to take devotions out of school. I would be very vocal because I think that is this that is going to bring us back to basics. Our national anthem is a prayer, most of our schools were started by churches," he said further.

Voicing faith that 'Jamaica can turn around and will turn around', he praised recent steps taken by the Broadcasting Commission to ban the playing of music that promotes scamming, the use of the illicit drug Molly, and illegal guns.

"I am happy they have banned some things from our radio and television stations, but I think there are some steps that should be taken to turn around our nation and stem the negative influences on our young people. We have to save the next generation," Rattray said.

In October, one group, the Association of Christian Communicators and Media (ACCM), in a response to the suggestion, said the ministry "must take into account the fact that the public school system, for the most part, was established on moral and legal foundation, grounded in the Christian faith. It is on this solid foundation that the majority of the traditional institutions of learning were built."

Alicia Dunkley-Willis

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