Opening of schools will be a reprieve from abuse for many of the nation's childrenMonday, August 02, 2021
BY ALETHIA-ELIZABETH BROWN
The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI) in collaboration with the National Teachers' Council (NTC) recently hosted a five-day Return to Happiness (RTH) training session for specific groups of educators.
I must use this medium to express my gratitude to the said bodies for such a life-changing initiative. The Return to Happiness programme/curriculum is designed to assist teachers and students with the reintegration process if and when physical school reopens.
After an extended suspension from the physical space due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, the MOEYI and NTC have found it necessary to devise a programme that will provide students with well-needed cushioning to help them regain equilibration in the aftermath of online classes for the majority of the academic year.
I give the initiative five stars and am confident that the strategic implementation of the programme will see our Jamaican students being able to find a balance should they return to school in September.
Relevance of RTH
I deem the Return to Happiness initiative as fittingly appropriate for our current educational and social contexts.
Since the onset of the pandemic, Jamaicans have been shocked by the frequent revolting reports of children being abused in different, and sometimes heinous, ways and these reports stem from known cases.
Invariably, there are children who suffer in silence with no outlet for restoration or avenue for assistance. And so, in the midst of a debilitating pandemic, there is the perpetual epidemic of child abuse and child neglect. Should school reopen in September (as many hope), these emotionally burdened students will be sitting in front of teachers who are eager to bridge the education gap, while at the same time completing syllabi in preparation for exams.
Teachers who are not cognisant of the emotional blockades that children will return to the classroom with, or even worse, who may not be equipped with the necessary skill sets to mitigate against the stifling traumatic experiences that will inevitably present themselves in the classrooms, may soon realise that they themselves are becoming more and more frustrated. The emotional fissures may widen and give way to disruptive behaviour, thus preventing the smooth flow of the teaching-learning process.
The Return to Happiness programme is designed to function as a contingency plan to assist teachers to treat with such cases should they arise but, more importantly, provide teachers with a springboard from which to proceed as they assist students to return to the happy states they enjoyed at school before the pandemic mandated a forced closure of our institutions.
My umpteen years of teaching have taught me that school is the primary haven that some children know. It is through co- and extra-curricular activities that pent-up energies are released and non-academic talents are unearthed. It becomes even more apparent, then, that children who have had to stay home for such an extended period may be experiencing psychological trauma, depression, and withdrawn tendencies. The schools will, therefore, have to design programmes to assist these students to move forward and RTH is one such.
The Bigger Picture
As I reflect on the training session in which I participated, the hands-on activities and the warmth I experienced from my teammates and presenters, I cannot help but wonder if our Jamaican society, on the whole, could return to happiness. Oh, how we yearn for the days when our children could play outside unperturbed by violent predators who seek to plunder and disenfranchise people of their right to live and live in peace. The days when the happy voices of children could be heard running down the streets playing games of various sorts and laughing uncontrollably seem to be memories of a distant past.
Gone are the days, too, when fellow men and women were exactly that, and people did not hasten to take pictures of their neighbours in distress to broadcast them on social media, much to the dismay of relatives in many instances. I wonder if we can return to happiness and again enjoy the kind of Jamaica where the elderly were revered and formed the bulwarks of society, and where hoodlums did not mercilessly and remorselessly take life as if they can give life.
Life as we knew it some ten, or even a year-and-a-half ago may never be the same, but at least we can try to regain inner happiness; the kind of happiness that emanates from love and balance, and which permeates the rest of the society.
Some people may argue that the catalysts for happiness are relative and that is true. The undisputed, undebatable foundational principle, however, is that in its infancy, happiness should not be incumbent on external factors. It should be a state of mind that propels an individual to want to be more and do more to impact the lives of others in a positive way.
Am I taking a utopic or unrealistic view of life? Absolutely not! I am not removed from the reality of what happens at the supermarket when you spend a quarter of your salary and return home with two small bags. I am not oblivious to the fact that parents are facing dire economic strains and perturbation.
I am fully aware of the deplorable conditions in which many of my countrymen and countrywomen are forced to live. Yet, it is all of these factors combined that further cement the need for us to try to find, and return to, happiness. We have to keep the old adages in mind so that what we have left of our emotional well-being does not dissipate into further recession. So the “one one cocoa full basket” and “every mikle mek a mukle” principles have to be the driving factors behind our reclamation of mental and emotional happiness.
I urge us all to do our utmost to return to happiness. Unless we, ourselves, as parents, educators, mentors, or influencers are happy, then everyone around us will inevitably be infected by the dreariness and monotony of a dismal existence. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, hope is never fully lost. As long as life continues, we have the power to decide whether we continue to saunter down streets of dismay or begin the trek back to happiness. Let us choose happiness.
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