A Jamaican child's realitySunday, May 09, 2021
IN her recent sectoral presentation, Education Minister Fayval Williams presented what is certainly a very enlightened initiative. This was the initiative for the Government to not only pay for extra lessons for public sector students, but also introduce behavioural teachings.
This may be one of the best initiatives that I have ever seen come from that ministry, which shows that there is finally some thinking happening there and is in contrast to the reports of mismanagement we became used to. Congrats to Fayval who I have always thought has her heart, and more importantly, her head/mind in the right place.
There is no doubt that a large majority of our children may have suffered from the absence of face-to-face school for over the past year, and certainly we will pay with the impact on our labour skills and productivity levels for many years to come.
This initiative therefore, will close some of that gap but will be far from sufficient to make up the lost time as many children have missed the best time for learning and many may simply not return to the classroom.
There were two thoughts that came to mind as I read about the initiative.
Firstly, it is my hope that the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA) does not begin to make representations that all teachers should have the right to be included in the extra lesson offering, as what we want to achieve is having the best teachers selected, and I don't expect that this would provide enough face time for full employment of teachers. So hopefully we can finally have some performance-for-pay measurement in place.
Secondly, though, I wonder about the effectiveness as children will learn good behavioural skills at school but then as soon as they leave the classroom they will see that indiscipline and breaking the law pays, as the taxis or buses they take will have loud (and lewd) music playing, they will be dangerously packed, and they will violate the traffic rules by driving on the wrong side of the road in plain view of the police, who incidentally might own the taxis.
Then they will go home to their communities and see men sitting around and smoking with their luxury cars parked up and abusing women openly and openly making sexual moves. Clearly having no meaningful employment.
Then at nights they will be subject to the violent lyrics of a dance a half a mile away that goes on all night in breach of the Noise Abatement Act and which spew lyrics of violence and how women are to be abused, further erasing what they learned in the well-thought-out behavioural class in the day, even in their subconscious state when they finally fall asleep from great fatigue. What is more is that they will see policemen passing by all these infractions and leaving with a “tip”.
The next day, their mother, tired from the dance the night before, can't wake up to properly nurture them and send them off to school and has no money to give them for lunch but is wearing Brazilian hair and is still in the dress she bought for the dance the night before. And because the child goes to her and asks her to help him get ready for school she slaps him because she is still tired from staying out late. So he takes up his PATH vouchers, which embarrasses him when he has to present them at school, and at six years old ventures out by himself.
Walking to school he happens to see his father, who he has not seen in months, on the corner drinking and smoking early in the morning, looking like he has been at the same spot from the night before. As he passes the father says to his friends “A one of my seed that,” without acknowledging the child or his siblings, all with different fathers met at various dances by his mother.
He then finally ends up at school after being worn out by the public transport system and being shouted at by the conductor who tells the driver to drive even before he is allowed to get off the bus properly. He is greeted by his friend who is dropped off by his father and gets a hug and kiss, and he wonders why that couldn't be him.
In class his teacher lambasts him for falling asleep, not understanding he was unable to sleep the night before because of the dance and is only thinking about the nutrition bun and box of milk he will get from the PATH vouchers he has in his pocket but which he may not have enough of for the next day. Because, of course, he had no breakfast that morning and is looking forward to his first meal.
After the official school day completed by that six-year-old, he then does a one-hour class on proper social behaviour after going through 12 hours of abuse and poor examples from his natural role models.
So what is the effect of these extra lessons if on the other hand the police and authorities fail to create a society of law and order? And he hears the “articulate minority” speaking in the media, and posting on social media, that the lockdowns are okay because children can do classes and learn online? Aall the time not understanding the reality that many Jamaican children face every day.
So while us privileged Jamaicans can afford to send our children to private schools, where class sizes are limited and classes have two teachers at the time learning is essential; or if the Government locks down face-to-face we can still send our children to extra lessons and have private tutors; or our children do not have to worry about what they will eat, and are more concerned with what they eat, many many Jamaicans do not have those basic needs fulfilled.
So when that child becomes an adult and is one of the over 60 per cent of Jamaicans who was not able to achieve a single subject at CXC level but wants to feed his children, he may think he either has the option of crime to provide for them, or as his father does, will just walk away and not have to deal with that responsibility.
Welcome to Jamaican logic.
Dennis Chung is the author of Charting Jamaica's Economic and Social Development and Achieving Life's Equilibrium . His blog is dcjottings.blogspot.com.
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