Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Study Group Or Group Sex

Many students particularly teenagers have invested many hours studying, some of this time is done in study groups in an effort to be successful in their examinations. Numerous parents and guardians have also invested heavily in their child’s or children welfare, whether it’s in the form of tuition or school fees, lunch money, examination fees, food, shelter and clothing.  Like any relationship trust and communication are very important, the parent child relationship is no different.
Adolescence is that phase of life between childhood and adulthood. It is usually characterized by a period of exploitation and opportunity. For many teenagers this is a most appropriate time to deceive their parents about the need to study. Most of us have been there? Have you ever told your parent a fib? If you are honest you would have answered ‘Yes’.  Many parents have a soft heart once their child comes to them with a story about studying whether at a public place such as the library, Devon House or Hope Gardens or in a private space and therefore will gladly give their consent. However, parents and guardians must be aware that in some instances these group study sessions are not what they appear to be.
Group sex has become very popular not only in the United States of America but also here in Jamaica.  An alarmingly number of teenagers are indulging and have been caught up in group sex. According to The Jamaica Reproductive Health Survey the average age for a male to have his first sexual experience is 12. 4 years and for girls it is 14.7 years. This is indeed very frightening and troubling given the implications which may result from early sexual initiation. The earlier the teenager starts having sex, the less likely they are to use contraceptives. Without the use of contraceptives pregnancies many occur, so too HIV/AIDS transmission and Sexual Transmitted Infections (STI,s). The teenage girl may be forced with a situation of having an abortion done in order to continue her studies. The teenage boy obviously not equipped to take on the responsibilities of fatherhood, maybe forced to drop out of school in search of a job to care for his child or he may just choose to continue with his studies.  While we do not have the data in Jamaica to clearly state to what extent group sex impacts our teenage population, data from the USA is available. In a recent study of sexual activity in teens by the Boston University School of Public Health, researchers found that as many as one in 13 teenage girls surveyed said they had participated in group sex. According to the same  research 7.3 percent of teens age 14 to 20 years have had multi-person sex (MPS), ranging from gang rape to sex parties and 45 percent of teens reported that at least one person in the group did not use a condom. The issues of rape and sexual violence are also raised in a context of group sex parties, since it is very unlikely that the victim would give consent to multiple individuals having yes with her. Parents and guardians need to inform their teenagers of the many ills and dangers which are always present in the society. Teenagers too must be sensible and be careful with whom they go out with and where, as well as they must take responsibility for their safety and be prepared to face the consequences of sexual irresponsibility.
It is clear that parents and guardians need to pay more attention to their teens. Parents you need to know where your child is going to study. Find out who are the other teens in the study group. Know your child’s friends, as well as the parents of the friends of your child. Parents need to invest the time to know all this before they give consent for any group study. Parents should develop and sustain an open line of communication with their child so that he or she will feel comfortable enough to tell you what is happening in their life. Parents talk to your child about sex, if you don’t someone else will. The Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees each child the right to privacy, however, if your child tells you he or she is going to study and a quick search of his/her bag reveals no books, and your gut feeling tells you something is wrong, then something is probably wrong. Parents don’t allow the right to privacy to prevent you from doing what you must. 
The Boston University School research also revealed that a significant number of the teens reported alcohol use at these group sex encounters.  We all know that alcohol impairs one’s judgment; we therefore can make an association with alcohol consumption and the low contraceptive usage at these group sex parties. In many societies including the Jamaica society alcohol is not viewed in the same category as hard drugs, such as, cocaine. It is not very easy for a teen in Jamaica to gain access to alcohol; we clearly need to revisit how we can make it more difficult for our teens to gain access to alcohol. More public service announcements are needed about the negative implications of alcohol drinking. To some extent alcohol consumption is a marker from childhood to adulthood for many males and indeed females.      
Much more investigation is needed into the sub-group of Multi- Person Sex (MPS). We need to know among other things, who are the teenagers that are most likely to be in this group?  Are males more at risk of being involved in this sub group than females? We need to educate our children from as early as primary school about issues of this nature and in so doing prepare them for all eventualities.
As we move towards protecting our children this should serve as a warning to some parents/guardians, and a reminder for others that the next time your child/ward comes asking for your consent to attend a group study session. Teenagers will always seek out and exploit parents regarding opportunities to have sex among other things; however, parents must be more vigilant regarding their children welfare. As we approach the summer holidays also, there is likely to be an increase in parties which in many instances will be unsupervised. Do your background checks parents before answering in the affirmative since your child next group study session might well be a group sex session. 

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
waykam@yahoo.com

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Shift the Focus to Offences of Sexual Abuse

Recently the society was shocked to its core by a number of disturbing incidents which have reinforced and highlighted the sad state of affairs of the nation’s children, the plight of our women and the elderly. In the first instance a fifteen year old boy who has been a ward of the state since the age of eight was repeatedly raped, beaten and verbally abused by older boys in at least seven children’s home he has lived. Additionally, the youngster reported that he has been verbally abused by employees at the various place of safety he has lived. The fact that he is a ward of the state should not subject him to being sexually and verbally abused. This is a national disgrace! We need to ask ourselves how many more boys and girls too have suffered similar fates in our places of (danger) since it is very clear no safety is guaranteed in such institutions. 
Equally disturbing was the response from the state agency in response to the boy’s frequent incidence of absconding from these places of safety. The Child Development Agency (CDA) is reported as saying” his frequent absconding continues to expose him to abuse”.
The facts are whether the youngster was on the road or in a place of safety he was sexually abused. A place of safety is supposed to protect and care for children who are placed in their care. Is it unacceptable that employees of any children’s home are abusing children under their supervision! The state needs to move now to order an audit of all places of safety to determine the level of abuse both current and as well as those in the past and put measures in place to strengthen the check and balances to ensure this predatory practice be stopped.
Something is clearly not right regarding the cavalier response of the Child Development Agency (CDA) to the suffering and obviously frustration of this youngster. It’s all very clear that more social workers are needed to adequately monitor the operations of these places of safety. It’s also very clear that more children’s officers are required to see to the welfare of those children who have been abandoned or those children who parents are unable to care for them.
The incidence as reported by the youngster speaks to the bigger issue of sexually bullying which is very prevalent and pervasive in many of our institutions. Sexually bullying involves comments, jokes, actions or attention that is intended to hurt, offend or intimidate another person. Obviously sexually bullying is a common feature of most of our places of safety and we need to move urgently to address this matter.
All children have the right to be protected from violence, exploitation and abuse regardless of sexual orientation, ethnic origin, gender and socio-economic background. The focus of sexually bullying is usually on body parts, as well as, the victim’s appearance and or perceived sexual orientation.
The second incident deals with the seemingly easy access our children have to places of adult entertainment.  Why is it that our children particularly boys are allowed access to exotic clubs?  Why is it that the operators of such places do not put in place a system where identification cards are required before entry is permitted? Why is it that the police are not required to do unannounced raids at these places of adult entertainment?
There are too many children working in and gaining entry to these entities which clearly are for adults over the age of eighteen years. There is an urgent need for more structured and for more monitoring to be in place to avoid our youngsters from being abused and sexually exploitation. Our children are already living in world where they are constantly being bombarded by sexually images symbolism. There is no need to rush our children into becoming adults. Children should be allowed to enjoy their childhood and maintain their innocence.
The third incident of immense disturbance is of the recent beheading of a pregnant woman in the Mountain View area of Kingston. Not only was this heinous and ghastly act committed against this mother of six children. Imagines of the dead woman have been circulating across social media. It has been reported that some of her children have been showed the image of their dead mother. In fact many school aged children have been passing on the picture of this dead woman to their friends and associates.
Why are we as a society so fascinated with the horrors surrounding death? Why are we exposing our children to this most graphic of images of a beheaded human being?
Yet we wonder why it is that some of our children cannot learn. Just imagine the trauma, emotionally and psychological damage that accompanies and stays with one who is a close friend or family of the deceased. Viewing such a picture must have a long lasting effect for anyone especially for any child to see his/her mother in such a position (headless).     
The state should move at once to provide counseling as well as other critical support for the children of this deceased woman. It’s a shame where we have reached as a society. There is hardly any respect for life and or property. Justice is fast slipping away for the average Jamaican. We live in a society where justice is dependent upon the depth of one’s wallet. 
We need to protect our children at all cost. Our human resources especially our children are our greatest assets. Clearly more can and needs to be done to foster a culture of safety for all our children. It is imperative that more background checks be done on individuals who apply to work with children.
A licensing and registration programme for all employees of children’s homes and indeed nursing homes should become a best practice and common feature of the Jamaican state. The recent rape of a sixty nine year woman at an Infirmary in Saint Mary has exposed the lack of security measures at our nursing homes and infirmaries. 
We need to create a society that is equitable for all Jamaicans, a society in which every Jamaican physical and psychological safety is guaranteed and assured.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
waykam@yahoo.com

Friday, 21 February 2014

Psalm 27 verses 1-2

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of

whom shall I be afraid?

Live Where You Represent; Represent Where You Live

Our parliamentarians over the years have refused to address the issue of constitutional reform. However, the time has come for civil society to demand more representation from those who choose to serve in this capacity. It is no longer sufficient for our elected parliamentarians to have only a constituency office in their respective area where constituents may meet with them at scheduled times. While each person has the right to choose where he/she lives, the primary residence of those who sit in Gordon House should be among the people they represent without any exception. This amendment should be enshrined in the Constitution.
Each consistency is unique and as a result each constituency has specials needs that must and should be addressed by the elected officials.
For example, our parliamentarians should be exposed to the nightly noise which has become a common feature of urban dwelling despite us having a Noise Abatement Act.
As a society we should be resolute and demand more from our elected officials. Our parliamentarians should experience the same inconveniences and nuisance the practice of night noise creates for law abiding and taxpaying citizens on a nightly basis.
Our members of Parliament should have the pleasure of driving on the same pot hole riddled roads to reach their homes which is the daily experience for all of us.
Our Parliamentarians should experience what it is like to pay rent for their own homes to criminals as is the current situation in some parts of Eastern Kingston.
Until our elected officials live and experience the same issues of discomfort and stress they will not be in a position to adequately represent those they seek to serve.
Our Parliamentarians should be made to experience the horrors of having a child go through a shock because of constant gunshots being fired by marauding gunmen and the resulting stress this places on a family.
Any individual who refuses from living in the constituency in which they seek to represent should be barred from representation politics. For the most part our politicians are far removed from the realities of life for the average Jamaican. One cannot ask one to sacrifice unless one is willing to sacrifice of the same quality.
We will not have true political representation until the Jamaican constitution is reformed to ensure the empowerment of the Jamaican citizen.  We need as a society re-commit ourselves to the principle of social justice which embodies a society that is equitable and in which all members are physically and psychologically safe.
We will not have a just society until we create and foster a culture of fairness and equality for all Jamaicans. As citizens we must and should demand more representation from our elected officials.  

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com

Thursday, 20 February 2014

World Day of Social Justice

In 2007 the United Nations (UN) General Assembly proclaimed February 20 as World Day of Social Justice. In his message to mark the day Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated “ The gap between the poorest and the wealthiest around the world is wide and growing….We must do more to empower individuals through decent work, support through social protection and ensure the voices of the poor and marginalized are heard”.
For the most part this day of global significance goes unobserved in Jamaica. However social justice is very important in the development of any society. Social justice embodies and promotes a society that is equitable by challenging injustices and creating a tolerance for diversity. 
World Day of Social Justice is set aside to focus on achieving poverty eradication, achieving full employment and social integration and human dignity.
There is a tendency for us not to get involved in issues of this nature since the belief is that others will look about this. However, we all have a part to play as citizens in creating a just society in which we can work and raise our families. We all should be the “watchdogs” of our democracy and ensure that our society is one in which all citizens’ rights are protected.

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Gap Between Rich and Poor

Deuteronomy chapter15 verse 11 “For the poor shall never cease out of the land; therefore I command you, saying, 'You shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy, in thy land”.
Much of the suffering in the world today is as a direct result of the greed of mankind. The gap between the rich and the poor is widening at a very fast pace throughout the developed and developing societies. This ever expanding gap does not augur well for the development of any society especially a small state such as Jamaica. It is abundantly clear that we are living in economically challenging times. However, despite this fact it is also profusely clear that the rich are getting richer and the poor in the society are getting poorer.
Successive governments since political independence have pursued and implemented many policies and programmes in the guise of redistributing wealth in the society.  However, this has not worked over the years and as such the gap between those who have much and those who have little have increased over the years. The primary purpose of any government is to create the environment conducive for the creation of jobs in order to stimulate economic growth and development.
Recently an Oxfam report entitled, “Working for the Few” highlighted the seriousness of global inequality regarding wealth distribution. The report showed the top eighty five richest individuals in the world have a combined net worth of that of the poorest half of the world’s population. The wealth of the richest eight five people in the world amounts to over US$110 Trillion dollars. It has been documented that there is a correlation between wealth, power and influence.  The rich have successfully wielded political influence to manipulate policies in their favour on issues ranging from anti competitive business practices to financial deregulation.  If we are not careful our elected parliamentarians could easily find themselves catering to interest groups who are the big donors to political parties and election campaigns. In fact there have been recent instances of questionable campaign financing to both major political parties; the People, s National Party and the Jamaica Labour Party resulting in much humiliation and embarrassment to both parties. It is now time for Jamaica to act with a sense of urgency to put the necessary legislation in place to facilitate a more transparent system regarding contributions to political parties. Failure to do this will only serve to reinforce the perception that Jamaica is a corrupt state. Over the years Jamaica’s performance on Transparency International ranking has been dismal and more determined effort on the part of government must to taken to improve our image in the eyes of the world regarding the issue of corruption. While nothing is wrong with being rich something is troubling in a world where so many children go to bed hungry each night. Something is wrong in a world where many families survive on $1US daily. Something is wrong in a world where 3.5 billion people or half of the world population have combined assets of the world top eighty five richest persons.  Something is indeed wrong when the minimum wage does not relate to the reality on the ground. There is a need for a living wage not solely a minimum wage in the society as well as social safety net for the most vulnerable among us.
Income inequality and wealth generation are two critical areas that as a society we need to spend more time addressing since these are indicators of economic growth.  Income inequality is the uneven distribution of wealth within a defined geographic area.  A number of factors such as gender, access to education, nepotism and computerization all impact income inequality.  Most studies reveal that gender income gap favours males in the labour market. Nepotism is favourtism granted in politics to supporters of a political party or relatives of a powerful political figure.  As the society becomes more developed and as technology increases the need for computers and machine to take over some jobs is inevitable. People will be displaced and made redundant. This will have crippling effects of these individuals and their dependents especially if they are the main bread winner of their family.
The middle class in Jamaica is eroding at a very fast pace, indeed we hardly talk about the middle class anyone instead we refer to that segment of the population as the “working poor”.
Jamaica is such a fascinating place with many instances of Oxymoronic and Paradoxical examples. How can you be working and be classified as among the poor?
Income tax inequality has been the main factor responsible for creating such a troubling economic divide in the Jamaican society. Those of us who are “pay as you earn” (PAYE) employees continue to bear the brunt of income tax while the rich evade taxes and the poor are too impoverished to pay. A reform of income tax is urgently needed in the Jamaica society to bring about more fairness and equity to the collection of taxes especially with regards to PAYE,s income and in the process help to restore the middle class. A society cannot move ahead in economic terms if there is no middle class. As a result policy makers must ensure that there is some breathing space for that section of your population in order to have sustainable development.
Inequality data and statistics give us an important insight into the state of our income as well as the health of our society. To understand how many people of a country are poor it is equally important to know the country’s per capita income as well as how equally or unequally income is distributed across the population. Jamaica’s per capita income is approximately US$ 7,000.
Yet despite the improvements over the years in Jamaica’s per capita income roughly a fifth of the population are still living in poverty. Jamaica has a poverty rate of between 16.5 per cent and 20 per cent.
Since his elevation to the papacy last year, Pope Francis has been using his office to speak about the rising inequality in societies and the split between the very poor and the super rich. Recently the Pope spoke about how societal values have changed, he said when an elderly person dies dues it exposure it was no longer news, however, when the stock market loses two points that made the news.
We live in a world where material acquisition and possession are the hallmark of human achievement and existence. The more the rich have is the more they wish to acquire regardless of who they need to trample on in achieving their goal.
We are currently witnessing a power grab by the rich. State entities are being gobbled up by the rich and the politically connected. This of course is being done under the guise of development.
 Crown lands are being sold to the richest Jamaicans while the others of us fight for the crumbs which fall off the table. The poorer class is expanding daily as the Jamaica dollar devalues at the end of each trading day. It now takes $108 Jamaican dollars to purchase $1US dollar.Wealth and power are increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few while the poor are left to fend for themselves.  Until we restrict the power of the greedy few among us and empower the many the gap between the haves and have not's will only widen.
Needless to say we will not achieve sustainable development until we create a culture of equal opportunity for all and foster a sense of belonging for all Jamaicans. 

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
waykam@yahoo.com

Sunday, 16 February 2014

The Lord,s Prayer- Saint Matthew Chapter 6 verses 9-13

Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come.Thy will be done on earth,

as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our

debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: for thine is the kingdom, and the

power, and the glory, forever Amen!

Friday, 14 February 2014

Poem-Skin

Do you love the skin you are in?

Why is there so much preoccupation with the colour of our skin?

Are you happy at what looks back at you?

Does your skin define you?
Black skin, white skin, yellow skin,

Sun damaged and bleached skin too                                                                                       

What difference does the colour of your skin makes?
Love the skin you are in

Wear it with a proud, broad, ear to ear grin

Skin is just skin
Do you love the skin you are in?

Don’t allow your skin to define you!

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Leadership and Education

“Wherever leadership is ineffective and or lacking chaos reigns” (Wayne Campbell 2014).
The Jamaican society continues to suffer from ineffective leadership in all spheres.
Therefore we should not be surprised at the findings by the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) that approximately fifty per cent (50%) of our primary and secondary schools have leadership classified as unsatisfactory. 
Notwithstanding that there is an abundance of public opinion which argues that the state of the Jamaican education system would have been better had the government used the funds that went towards the establishment of the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) to provide critical support to those " weaker" schools within the education system. Why do we have education officers? Do you think it would have been more cost effective to have expanded the role and function of the education officer instead of creating a new entity? 
One reality which we refuse to admit to is the fact that there are some schools which urgently need the presence of police officers or army personnel to be stationed on the campus. Teachers are not trained to be correctional officers. There are many schools which are not coping and will not cope given the ineffective leadership which is widespread. Our refusal to act decisively on these matters put our students and teachers in harm’s way. Nothing less is required to ensure that teaching and learning takes place. Additionally there is an urgent need for psychologists and social workers to be employed in many of our schools. Not all children can learn nor will they learn in the present structure we now have. Research has shown that mental retardation is around one percent of any given population. There are many students in the mainstream education system that requires specialized care. However, due to a lack of schools for special needs students such students continue to be in a system which cannot address their needs. This is an unconscionable act and indeed a human rights issue which requires urgent action. This failure on the part of the state speaks to the systemic failures within the education system.
Another disturbing revelation from the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) report states that a significant number of school principals are not sufficiently focused. The root of the problem has its genesis mainly in the political interference in the selection process of some of our principals.
This political intrusion in the affairs of our schools has opened the way for meddling of differing persuasion especially of a religious nature more so for church based schools. This too should be a cause for concern for all well thinking Jamaicans. In a significant number of instances the candidate who is most capable and competent is overlooked for the candidate who has the support of the church or politician. We need to remove education outside the realm of politics if we are serious about transforming Jamaica's education system.  
We need to create a culture of meritocracy where people are judged based on their worth and work and not their political and or social connections. As result of not adhering to this ethical principle the society continues to suffer since many competent and qualified individuals have refrained from putting themselves forward for positions of leadership.
We need to build and foster a culture of transparency and accountability across all sectors of the Jamaican society or else we are doomed to fail. This NEI revelation of uninspired and unsatisfactory school leadership in our schools is very disturbing and does not offer us much hope in the short and medium term. This is more distressing since it was reported that a significant number of school principals are non compliant in completing critical components of the Effective Leadership Programme at the National College for Education Leadership (NCEL). One way of addressing the lack of focus by our principals is by employing them on a contractual basis.
Interestingly there is a co relation between those principals who are non compliant and under performing schools. The failure of some principals is an indictment on their leadership skills or lack thereof. We continue to practice the culture of entitlement to the peril of the education system and the society in general. 
Another area of grave concern is that of the appointment of school boards. Too many of those who sit of school boards should not be there period! Moreover many of our school boards are just an extension of the office of the principal. The Education Ministry should examine the possibility of providing training for those who sit of school boards. Board members should be made to go through a rigorous selection process a part of which should include some form of written and oral examination. Maybe we should go the way of having a cluster system involving chairmen of school boards. Why not have one competent chairperson serving three or four schools in a cluster?
The final area of concern is that of the appointment or I prefer the term selection of senior teachers in the education system. The Ministry of Education needs to revise how senior teachers are selected. For the most part senior teachers are hand picked by principals as a reward for their loyalty and devotion to the individual principal. This is sore point for most schools and serves to create divisions in the school system which ultimately affects the teaching/learning process.
We need to remove the selection of senior teachers from the domain of principals and have a central body appoint senior teachers.
If we are truly serious about transforming Jamaica’s education system we should look at all the stake holders involved and put measures in place to address the weaknesses and deficiencies which are abound. Finally why not open the National College for Education Leadership (NCEL) to teachers who may be desirous to be trained as principals. We are not very serious about educational transformation in this society. Given Jamaica’s economic predicament investment in quality education is the only hope to lift us out and up of our economic stagnation. We are now at a critical juncture in our nation’s history. It’s now time for us to critically examine alternatives models to not only improve test scores of our students, but to provide our students with the necessary skills for them to become productive citizens in the technological driven era.

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

www.wayaine.blogspot.com

 

 

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Jamaica Teaching Council: Punishment or Way Forward

Getting licensed before one is allowed to teach has become common place worldwide. Jamaica on the other hand has been lagging behind the rest of the world regarding this best practice. The Jamaica Teaching Council was established to provide the framework to license our teachers. However, there are many misconceptions regarding the role of the Jamaica Teaching Council and this has added to a plethora of misinformation and uneasiness in education circles regarding the Council. Many teachers are opposed to the Teaching Council Bill in its present form because sections of the Bill are riddled with unfairness towards the teaching profession. An area of grave concern which The Teaching Council Bill falls short on is the protection and security of the major stakeholders.  The Bill also gives legal powers to the Council to immediately suspend and cancel the registration of a teacher, who is charged for what is deemed a disqualifiable offence; such offences include sexual offences, murder, pornography, robbery, and fraud.  The Teaching Council will also seek to encourage excellence and to improve marginal performance wherever it exists.  Teachers are and should be concerned about this proposed Act which will become the framework to govern the teaching profession. One of the most troubling aspects of this Act lies in the disciplinary powers that this legislation would have if passed in its current form.  Part VII of the bill, which speaks to the professional disciplining of teachers, notes that the Council can, at any time, suspend a teacher without an inquiry.  Someone needs to be reminded that we are in the 21st century and this era calls for engagement and the consultation of all stakeholders. How can you suspend or even propose to suspend a teacher without an inquiry? What of the right of the teacher to a fair hearing or legal representation? Other notably areas of concern surrounding the Teaching Council Bill are the composition of the members of the council and the amount of power the Minister of Education would exercise over the Council. How can the composition of a professional body be comprised of a majority of appointees who are not members of that profession?  Why are teachers being singled out here? Is it that teachers are of less integrity than any other category of professionals? There is no other category of professionals that this would be possible with. If the government is truly serious about getting consensus and moving forward regarding this Bill then they need to revise that section of the Bill.
A number of teachers have asked questions such as:
1.      If a teacher has his/her teacher training in one subject area for example, Social Studies and a degree in a separate area, for example, Guidance and Counselling and currently teaches Social Studies will that teacher be licensed at the diploma level and be paid at that level or will the teacher be granted a license in the subject area he or she has a degree in?
The education system as it has a significant number of teachers who have undergraduate and even post graduate degrees outside of their teacher training subject area and it would be quite unfair to penalize such teachers by restricting them to teach only the subject area/s of their teacher training.
2.      Will a teacher will able to receive multiple licenses in more than one subject area?
3.      What percentage of a teacher’s salary will the licensing fee be set at?
In its present form the Teaching Council Bill does not have the support of the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA), or any other teachers lobby group for that matter.
We all agree and accept that the country’s education system is in need of reform and transformation. However, there must be a collaborative and consultative approach engaging and engendering consensus from a wide cross section of the stakeholders in the society especially the nation’s teachers who will be mostly affected by this pending legislation. The education system cannot move forward in an atmosphere of confrontation and war of words.
Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com

Friday, 7 February 2014

Poem-Dress Code



Dress Code
© Wayne Campbell
 
Males dress in female attire
Females dress in male attire
What has gone wrong?
Why are our males dressing like females?

Tight fitting jeans
Shirts resembling blouses
Under garment exposed, as if a badge of honour
Fashion, maybe?

Why are our females dressing like males?
Blouses resembling shirts
Boots parading as shoes
Fashion gone berserk

Oh, I long for those days to return!
When males will once again dress like males and females no longer in male clothing  

Wishful thinking perhaps
Maybe I just old fashioned
And trying to relive the past in the future

Fashionable?
Or an act of defiance?
Only time will tell.

 

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Parallels in the Education Systems of Jamaica and Finland

The relatively small Nordic country of Finland is usually at the top of international education rankings. However, this pride of place did not happen by chance. Over twenty years ago a radical decision was undertaken by the government of Finland to overhaul and transform their education system. Since then the government of Finland has maintained a culture of success regarding educational outcomes for their students. While the Jamaica culture and society is quite different from that of Finland, there are parallels in both societies and no doubt we could learn from them by examining the educational model they pursued.
Finland has a population of 5.4 million people which makes it a relatively small state. Jamaica’s population is approximately 2.8 million. Free education is provided in Finland from kindergarten to the tertiary level of the education system; however this is not the situation in Jamaica.
Finland is considered by educational theorists to have one of the best if not the best education systems in the world. Finland is unique in that it holds teachers in very high esteem. Teachers in Finland must possess a master’s degree and pass a rigorous and competitive application process. Only teachers from the top 10 per cent of their graduating class are recruited to be trained as teachers. In 2010, nearly 7000 applicants competed for 660 positions in primary school preparation programme in the eight universities that educate teachers in Finland.
This is truly remarkable. Just imagine the transformation such a policy would have on the Jamaican society.
Of course the Jamaican society face numerous challenges especially of a financial nature, however, if we could as a society identity education as a national project and then allocate the necessary resources towards improving the education system its very likely that the other issues we face could be addressed.  
As educators we need to move in the direction of empowering our students to think critically instead of encouraging them solely to memorize facts and dates in order to pass an examination.  Regurgitating information is not tantamount to having a quality education.
All stake holders involved must and should be consulted and engaged in the process and their opinions given due consideration. If we hope to truly revolutionize Jamaica we must provide quality education for all our students.

Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Look Beyond the Headlines and Help Our Schools

No one wants to be associated with an educational institution labelled as a prison school.  As a result many school administrators are upset, some have even cried openly since the Jamaica Constabulary Force report on Education and Crime was tabled in Parliament by Education Minister Ronald Thwaites. However, while it’s safe to say that the report is flawed and misrepresented in some ways we should look beyond the headlines and see whether some good can emerge from this report. The fact is as a society we have been heading down the road of under-performance and under achievement of our young men for quite some time. This has resulted in many of our young men ending up in our penal institutions or dropping out of school. There are two schools of thought with regards to boys, underachievement. Firstly, there are those who locate the problem in relation to wider social changes and how this impacts males, particularly adolescent males with regard to their perception of masculinity and schooling. Secondly, there are those who claim that boys’ underachievement is a direct result of the emphasis that has been placed on girls.  Regardless of which theory you give support to we urgently need to have a national intervention programme targeting the scores of un- attached and “at risk” males in the society.
Our schools are in no way responsible for turning out criminals.  Over the years there has been and still is a breakdown of the family as the primary agent of socialization in the society. Needless to say the Jamaican society has a significant percentage of dysfunctional families. The trend of families being dysfunction began in the 1970,s when many Jamaicans migrated to North America and the United Kingdom in search of a better life leaving a gap regarding their parental responsibilities.  
As a result in many of our homes there was and still is little or no parental supervision. A common tendency In those splintered family types is that of juvenile delinquency by the time the child reaches high school that child is already a juvenile delinquent and therefore one step closer to prison. It’s a misnomer to think that schools turn children into criminals.
To compound this problem the government’s decision in the 1990,s to turn all secondary schools into high schools without investing heavily in the infrastructure and without providing the strong and continued support for these upgraded high schools has now return to haunt us. The cosmetic changes made to these secondary schools did not have the intended effect and does not to this very day. Those upgraded high schools are still not the first school of choice for parents and students and based on the public perception it is going to take a very long time for this to change.
Thirdly, the advent of the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) has also contributed to this sad state of affairs. We continue to send all the top achievers to the traditional high schools while sending the low scoring students to the upgraded high schools. As a society we have created the problems that we are now faced with. This practice by the Education Ministry is not a best practice and therefore untenable. The Ministry of Education must lead in their regard and make some policy changes to bring more equality to the education system for the primary users of the system that is our students.
While its safe to say all our schools are trying giving their best to educate the nation’s children given the limited resources at their disposal there is an urgent need for much more intervention by the state to rescue our students who attend those upgraded high schools.
I am almost sure that not one of those officials would send their child to any of the upgraded high schools and that in and of itself speaks volume of the affairs of Jamaican education system. Despite having windows of excellence throughout the education system much more reform is urgently needed to level the playing field in terms of giving all our students access to a quality education regardless of socio economic background.
This brings us to the fourth factor contributing to failure in the education system. The public’s negative perception of most of these schools listed in the report continue to do more harm than good to the morale of the students and teachers of such institutions.
 Some schools are already viewed as “bad’ schools so as soon as the student is enrolled in such an institution he or she takes on the character and sub culture of the “bad” school.
 If we are honest to ourselves all the schools listed in the report are struggling schools.
The reality is too many of our teachers are being force to take on the role of correctional officers as they try to curb the daily instances of indiscipline in our schools which is both pervasive and prevalent in the classroom.
They are struggling with student indiscipline, as well as, a scarcity of resources both human and financial. In addition to putting police and the army on the ground in those schools as it being reported by Minister Thwaites the Education Ministry should place Social Workers in those Institutions as well. The Education Ministry also needs to examine the student/ guidance counsellor ration is all our schools with the intent to increase the number of guidance counselor in our high schools. At least four guidance counselor should be in each high school. The report on Education and Crime did not say schools are turning out criminals. The media in search of sensationalism was responsible for putting that twist to the story.
Instead of engaging in a blame game we all need to examine ourselves as a society and determine in what way/s we can help the schools in our communities to improve. We should not chastised nor beat up on the schools and the teachers at such institutions. In fact those teachers continue to work hard and continue to add value to the lives of their students.

It would be disingenuous on the part of any of the principals of those schools listed in the report to say that they are not in need of help and support. The principals of those schools listed should embrace the assistance from the Ministry of Education and redouble their effort in changing the lives of those students who come through their doors.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and Social Commentator with an emphasis on development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.