Thursday, 27 March 2014

Empower the Disabled Community

Gone are the days when members of the disabled community would be locked away from the wider society. Disability affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Research shows that between ten to fifteen per cent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability. Interestingly, the disabled community is the largest minority grouping in the world.
Having a physical disability does not mean one in unproductive. In fact, there are many individuals who live rather enriched and productive lives.
It is abundantly clear that the Jamaican society has not done enough to protect and facilitate this important minority group in order to have full access all public facilities. Recently while driving through the parking lot of a major shopping mall in Half- Way- Tree I saw a young male struggling to get a wheelchair- bound middle- aged looking woman from the paved asphalted area to the elevated passageway of the shopping mall. After a few failed attempts two men came to her rescue and joined in the effort. As I drove along further I realized that there are no ramps for the physically challenged in many of the shopping malls. The problem is even more widespread since in many instances several places of commerce, education and other public institutions are also inaccessible to the physically challenged. The society can and indeed need to do more to make ready access to all public institutions. Our building codes needs to be revisited to cater to the special needs of the disabled community. It is inexcusable that we continue to build public structures without the required support facilities necessary for the disabled community to gain access. The disabled community also faces many forms of discriminations. A 2004 International Labour Organization- funded study found that only 35 per cent of working-age persons Americans with disabilities are in fact working compared to 78 per cent of those without disabilities.  The study revealed that one third of the employers surveyed were of the opinion that persons with disabilities cannot effectively perform the required job tasks. The second most common reason given for not hiring persons with disabilities was the fear of costly special facilities. The government has a major role to play in ensuring integration of this minority grouping in the society by first of all strengthening or passing the required disability specific laws.
Our Trade Unions need to become more involved in the return to work of those with disabilities by using specially designed disability management programmes in the workplace. As the government moves forward with the introduction of the flexi work week we hope that the special needs of the disabled community was taken into consideration.
The ILO study also revealed that private insurance providers have introduced more flexible arrangements so that workers who become disabled and who attempt a gradual transition to work would not lose their benefits. Companies are looking for ways to reduce costs by introducing disability management programs in the workplace.
 Many individuals with disabilities have been successful in several endeavours they have participated in. Our Special Olympians and Para Olympians, for example, have brought much pride and joy to Jamaica over the years as they have competed and medaled on numerous occasions.
With need an improved focus from the lobby groups which advocate on behalf of this minority group of Jamaicans. These lobby groups must become more vocal and increase their advocacy on behalf of their members. We must remember at all times that those who are able bodied are just one incident away from losing our sense of mobility.  Our disabled community must be empowered with a renewed sense of independence which will allow members of this community to feel a part of the mainstream society. We need to change how the society views members of the disabled community. 

Wayne Campbell

Monday, 24 March 2014

Poem-We Want Justice

Where is the justice?
One judicial system, yet two different outcomes
One law for the rich and politically connected
The other for the voiceless and marginalized

Is justice for sale?
Going Once
Going Twice
Sold! To the highest bidder

Not guilty!  Despite the glaring evidence
How much are you willing to pay?
How much is your freedom worth to you
Jungle justice everywhere!

Where is the justice?
In this land of ours
For all her people
Why does justice elude some?

Why does social class determine my level of justice?
Why is injustice so pervasive?
A slow and corrupt justice system in need of urgent reform
How many more roads must be blocked, how many more innocent lives will be lost?

When will justice be finally served?
Extra judicial killings on the increase
Police and eye witnesses views differ
Malaise and apathy everywhere

Botched investigations and missing evidence
Where is the justice?
Justice delayed and denied
We demand justice.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Living In A Post-Cold War World

The world is once again teetering on the verge of yet another military stand-off. However, this time it is between Russia and the West. Ever since the public demonstrations in Ukraine which resulted in the ouster of the elected president, the region has been plunged into chaos despite diplomatic overtures. While the Russian president is adamant that the move to seize Crimea was done to protect the minority Russian population, however, his strategic manoeuvring has driven a wedge in the relationship between Russia and EU/USA relations. The move by the Russian president has been denounced by many world governments and also triggered the debate as to whether Russia has a sinister ploy to annex other countries which were once part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). It can be argued that this stratagem by Russia was long coming ever since the expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to include states which were once included in the (USSR). Realistically, other than going to war with Russia which is very unlikely there is not much the USA/Europe can do to punish Russia for this aggressive move. In fact the symbolic sanctions which the USA/Europe have placed on Russia will do very little to quench Putin’s Czar-like desires and ambition to recapture Russia’s glorious past. The ongoing tension is perhaps the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold War, we should therefore all pay attention to this crisis because of the potential to push the world into another recession should it escalate much further. Russia supplies a significant amount of gas to Europe especially to Germany the so called workhorse of Europe. I am sure Europe will not want to risk their stable gas supply and economic recovery especially over a non-NATO member in Ukraine.
Nonetheless, the Russian president needs to be reminded that the Cold War is over and that no matter what he does and says Russia will not be a mighty as the former (USSR). There is no room in a post- Cold War world for nations to use their military might to bully weaker nations. All nations need to respect and observe International Law. Every effort should be made to give diplomacy a chance to solve this crisis.

Wayne Campbell

Monday, 17 March 2014

Stranger Than Fiction

The disappearance of the Malaysian Airlines flight M370 is both bizarre and frightening. The flight which originated in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur was heading to Beijing, China with over 200 passengers and crew when it simply vanished into thin air. This most unfortunate incident has stunned the aviation world as the governments of many countries including China, USA, India and Malaysia have joined in an international search effort to locate the plane.
As it expected many theories are being circulated regarding what might have happened to the plane since its disappearance just over a week ago. Many experts and the ordinary man in the street have been asking themselves and wondering whether this incident was a case of mechanical difficulties with the plane or a more sinister ploy of piracy. The Malaysian government for the first time has said that the missing jetliner had its communications systems deliberately turned off. As a result a hijacked theory is now being viewed as plausible as the search for the Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 intensifies as it enters its second week.  
How it is that in an age of unprecedented advances in communication and technology we are no closer to knowing what exactly happened to this flight?
Are surveillance cameras installed in the cockpits of all passenger air planes? This could have been a useful measure as the ground crew would have been able to see exactly what was happening in the cockpit before the disappearance of this flight.
This incident has left us with so many unanswered questions. How is it that in a time of increase scrutiny on matters of security two passengers could have travelled on stolen passports?
Whatever the outcome of this incident the families of those aboard the ill fated jetliner needs closure. We can only hope that the authorities will learn from this incident and put in measures to prevent this stranger than fiction incident from happening again.

Wayne Campbell

Friday, 14 March 2014

Restore May Pen Cemetery

Cemeteries have been around since time immemorial. Our cemeteries serve varied purposes, including being the final resting place or burial area for the dead. In addition cemeteries yield significant information about our society’s social, religious, artistic and cultural heritage. Our cemeteries also serve as outdoor museums and monuments to the past. Additionally, our cemeteries can provide many exciting career opportunities; careers in archaeology, specifically bio-archaeology should be explored by our students.
The May Pen Cemetery in Kingston is one of the oldest public cemeteries in the English speaking Caribbean. However, over the years and despite successive governments, the May Pen cemetery continues to be in a state of disrepair.
In recent times the chapel and other parts of the cemetery have become a haven for the many homeless individuals in and around Kingston. An entire generation of Jamaicans has been brought without appreciating and respecting the space of the dead. In many instances our children play and roam some our corporate area cemeteries. It’s not unusual to see young children playing on or even eating on graves.
The continued deplorable state of the May Pen Cemetery does not augur well for us as a society. The constant eyesore of the May Pen Cemetery serves only to reinforce the economic divide that is present in the society. Which it can be argued that the rich in the society no longer bury their dead in the May Pen Cemetery; many notable Jamaicans are interred there. 
Lets us commit to restoring the May Pen cemetery. Maybe the powers that be should include the May Pen cemetery among the major projects this Labour Day.
As Jamaicans we all have a collective responsibility in ensuring that the May Pen cemetery is restored to a burial site of dignity.   

Wayne Campbell

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Physical and Emotional Safety and Its Impact on Education

Do you think our schools have sacrifice the emotional safety of our students in favour of their physical safety? Emotional safety is simply defined as the freedom to express one’s self without repercussion from others. There are some in the society who continue to lament the ban on corporal punishment in our schools. While this view maybe controversial, it is my opinion that corporal punishment was responsible for creating a set of emotionally damaged Jamaicans who now finds it difficult to fit into a modern society. Research now tells us that social and emotional safety is just as important as physical safety for our students in order to ensure the holistic development of the child. Feeling safe is a basic and fundamentally important need for all human beings. When children do not feel safe because of the fear that they will be flogged it hinders the teaching/learning
experience and no one benefits. As a society we need to strive towards the creation of a culture of zero tolerance against violence at all schools in order to have all students and teachers safe.

Have you ever asked yourself this question? Is my child safe at the school he/she attends?  If you answered in the affirmative you need to think again. As a parent have you ever conducted a safety audit at your child’s school? Have you ever taken the time to walk the physical plant and inspect your child,s school?
A safety audit may just mean to walk the grounds of the school, or you may need to work in collaboration with the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) to set a convenient time with the school administrator to inspect the labs and other facilities at your child school. There is often a tendency for us to overlook some simply things which oftentimes are the key indicators of an impending problem. Maybe the time has come for us to do background checks on the staff at our schools. In this twenty first century sometimes people regardless of their titles and qualifications are not who they present themselves to be, things are not always what they seem to be on the surface.

A parent who is keen and know what to look for can in a relative short space of time develop a fair assessment of how safe his/her child will be at a given school. While all these checks are of a physical nature they do impact the welfare of your child and by extension the emotional safety of your child. Do you know for example if asbestos was used in the construction of the school your child attends? 

It is also useful to have some emotional safety tips in order to guide our students’ welfare: We should encourage our students to express feelings and opinions regularly. This is usually not encouraged in many classrooms in Jamaica as this challenge to authority is often misconstrued as being insolent.  However, having this outlet provides an environment where our students will develop the necessary self confidence and positive self esteem to be successful in life. As stakeholders in the education we must foster a classroom environment where everyone’s opinion is valued and laughing at or degrading the opinions of others is not acceptable behavior. Too many of our students are belittled and bullied daily.

Secondly, we need to create a classroom environment where our students’ goals are respected. The classroom should be a place where we offer students a place to outwardly succeed and express their desires or goals without worry or fear of being laughed at or ridicule. It is important that we offer all students the freedom to make choices for themselves. Choices creation allows for emotional well-being within our students. Students need the freedom to pursue interests and their own learning desires. Allowing students to express themselves in a safe environment creates emotional strength. Once any student has emotional strength and confidence that student is well on his/her way to learning. It is indeed sad that even after more than 170 years since the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade our people are still being bullied into submission. We live in a society where those whose opinions are different are oftentimes allowed to feel lesser than.
Our tendency to subscribe “otherness” to those we view as different need to stop.

Article 19 of the Convention of the Right of the Child speaks to the right each child has to be protected from hurt, mistreated, physically or mentally. Governments should ensure that children are properly cared for and protected them from violence, abuse and neglect by their parents and or caregivers. Any form of discipline involving violence is unacceptable. There are ways to discipline children that are effective in helping children learn about family and social expectations for their behaviour. Non-violent methods of disciplining are most appropriate to a child's level of development. In most countries, laws already define what sorts of punishments are considered excessive or abusive. It is up to each government to review these laws in light of the Convention. The main purpose of a school, any school for that matter is to impart knowledge to its clients. Schools are not established to administer corporal punishment, and it’s ludicrous and
defenseless to try and justify any such action regardless of what was used to carry out the punishment. Teaching and learning is what schools are there for. If there are students who for whatever reasons will not conform to the rules of the school then the parents and or guardians of such students should be called in and the matter discussed. It is not the purview of the principal to flog that child. Of course they may be instances where the parent of an unruly child or an under-performing child may be asked to find another institution for his/her child or to get that child some professional help. However, in a modern society and a global community corporal punishment has no place even if parents sign documents giving school administrators the permission to do so. Instead school administrators need to find creative and other non violent ways to punish students who display maladaptive behaviours and many of our students in fact do display such
behaviours. Instead of physically beating a child  let us use the knowledge, skills and years of experience to adopt a more humane way of treating the future adults of our society. 

As a society we have grown up to think that schools are the safest place for our children outside the home. We assume daily that once there is no physically injury to our child that the child had a safe day at school and all is well. This assumption however can be very deceptive and far from the truth. Parents must employ some investigative techniques to access the social and emotional aptitude of their children. How many of us as parents and guardians have bothered to check the emotional well being of your child? Have you ever thought about the emotional safety of your child? How many of us are familiar with Jamaica’s Child Care and Protection Act (CCPA)? If you are not acquainted with the CCPA take the time to do so. This Act provides the legislative framework for the protection of all children from physical and emotional abuse.  Investing in the safety and emotional well being of our children is an investment worth having. Our human resources are
our greatest assets.

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

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Learning Disorders, Drug Use and Masculinity

Males by virtue of their biological sex face many challenges in all spheres including their education. 
Boys are more likely to be both the perpetrator and the victim of fights. In fact research indicates that boys get into fights twice as often than girls. Accordingly, boys are six times more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD).  Boys are also more likely than girls to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  More than ten (10) per cent of school age boys in the United States of America have been diagnosed with this behavioural disorder. Without a doubt there is clearly a strong association between the behavioural disorders ADD and ADHD and the ability to learn. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) manifests itself differently between the sexes.  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is characterized by three major symptoms which are usually more pronounced in boys.
Boys are more likely to be hyperactive. Hyperactivity is a common trait among boys. Boys tend to run around, fidget and otherwise expend energy. However, it becomes a problem and a symptom of ADHD when the hyperactivity interferes with everyday life. For example, the boy may be unable to complete his homework, finish his chores or participate in after school activities due to his extreme level of hyperactivity.
Secondly, boys are more likely to be impulsive. For example, boys with ADHD tend to shout out answers in class without first raising their hands and get into trouble due to acting without first thinking about the consequences. Though this can be expected to a certain extent of most children, this is a symptom of ADHD when it becomes a problem that interferes negatively with the boy's life. If, for example, the boy acts impulsively and gets into trouble so commonly that he has been expelled from school, he should be evaluated for ADHD.
Thirdly, boys are more likely to be aggressive. Aggression is a common symptom of boys with ADHD. Though boys tend to be aggressive by nature, their lack of impulse control associated with ADHD tends to result in excessive aggressiveness. This can lead to a variety of problems, such as getting into fights and using offensive and inappropriate language. This can negatively interfere with the boy's success in school and maintaining relationships with his peers.
Far too many of our males in the Jamaican education system suffer from these illnesses. In fact many of these disorders go un-diagnosed and as a result many of our males are not being treated for these very common behavioural problems. This is clearly a contributing factor in boys underachievement in the Jamaica society..  We need to revisit the level of support the government gives to our schools through the Ministry of Education. There is an urgent need for us to have Psychologists and Social Workers in some of our schools. Clearly much more can be done and needs to be done to scaffold our learning institutions in order to give each child especially our boys the opportunity to learn.
Expectations of what is appropriate male behavior in the Jamaican classroom is largely informed by our popular culture:our music, especially Reggae and Dancehall as well as our language.
Popular culture continues to glamorize marijuana smoking and the government's intention to decriminalize marijuana smoking is likely to add ammunition to an already explosive situation. In many instances our boys idolize those ganja smoking, “gallist” artistes. Their role models are not the teachers with whom they spend a significant amount of the day with.
Let us not dismiss for a moment the power and influence of some of these dancehall and reggae artistes. Their control and indeed their authority is far more persuasive and far reaching than for example that of any teacher. Recently I came across the “G factor” ‘theory’ courtesy of a student work. While I was not fully aware of this before; it speaks to this on-going and increasingly pervasive and prevailing ideology which is affecting a significant number of our male students with devastating effects, thus impeding their educational success.
The G factor stands for girls, guns, gang, ‘gaza’ and ‘gully’.  These five factors are what most of our boys and young men are interested in.
Interestingly, it’s the extremely hard core, aggressive, macho image of the Jamaican male which while encouraged both in school and in the wider society runs counter to the academic ethos of education.
It is during the turbulent period of adolescence that our boys experiment and engage in activities that the society uses as indicators of manhood.  One such activity is that of drug use, mainly the smoking of marijuana. Indeed there is a clear link between masculinity and ganja use. Many of our boys are pressured into getting involved in drug abuse and early sexual initiation. Peer pressure is real and it takes a boy great emotional strength and a strong will not to succumb to the trappings of this ideal masculinity.  The 2006 National School Survey by the National Council on Drug Abuse found that 24 per cent of adolescents, mainly boys, had used ganja at some point.
One can now conclude that the crisis our boys face regarding under achievement is indeed a crisis of masculinity.  The competing models of masculinities in the Jamaican society are directly related to the recognition of the different definitions of manhood. Our school- age boys are caught in the middle of this phallocentric and patriarchal society in which one’s masculinity must be visible. From the beginning of time violence has always been part of the meaning of manhood. As a society the time has become for us to deconstruct the negative meanings and associations of manhood and to reconstruct the meaning of masculinity and manhood in order to equip our boys with the necessary tools to achieve academically.
By introducing masculinities into the discourse we are also able to explore the ways in which one’s social class complicate boys’ achievement.  Low-socioeconomic status children begin their early childhood education in systematically lower-quality elementary schools than their more advantaged counterparts. Jamaicans who are economically better off tend to send their children to preparatory schools as against the working class who send their children to basic schools. Therefore boys who attend prep schools usually have an educational advantage over their counterparts who attend primary schools. The annual Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) highlights this glaring gap between both sets of students and exposes the class divide as it relates to under achievement of boys.  
A shift in focus to masculinity as the crisis behind the boy crisis also explains what is happening to single sex schools. Boys become more confident in single sex schools. Recent research on the gender gap in school achievement shows that girls are more likely to undervalue their abilities, especially in the more traditional masculine educational arenas such as Mathematics and Science. Research done in Australia by Wayne Martino found that boys are uninterested in English because of what is might say about their masculinity. There is the perception in our society that most boys who like English are of a deviant sexual orientation.  This finding could be easily applied to the Jamaican context where most boys find reading lame and boring. 
Sadly, a number of our male teachers reinforce the anti-academic version of masculinity in a number of ways.  A significant number of our male teachers refuse from using Standard English in the teaching/learning experience in the classroom. Then there are others who overlook grammatical errors and only mark for content in their subject area. Therefore we should not be surprised that many of our males cannot pass Use Of English at the tertiary level.  
The solution to the issue of male underachievement will require the input from all the stakeholders in the education system, our parents, teachers, students, the wider community and the Ministry of Education. By rescuing our boys we are in fact rescuing the Jamaican society. 

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

Wednesday, 5 March 2014


Sexually explicit text messages
Oversexed! Indecent!
Spreading like wildfire
Is there no escaping it?
A total stranger or someone of familiarity

Old and young alike, middle aged too
Men, women and those transgendered 
Everyone’s finger busy at work
Senators, congressmen, and the commoner too
Public spaces! Private sphere!

Unwanted messages
Unrequited proposal
“I wish you were here with me”..., is that what I think it is on your phone child?
Horrified parents
Secretive teenagers

Obsession or is it admiration?
Humorous or repulsive?
Illegal in some jurisdiction
Is it a feature of modernity?
What is the solution? The answer lies within your fingers.

© Wayne Campbell


Saturday, 1 March 2014

Protecting The Welfare of Our Student Athletes

The recent death of a Jamaican student athlete in Trinidad and Tobago is both untimely and tragic.  My condolences go out to the family of Cavahn and the St. Jago High School family. On the other hand, we should not allow Cavahn Mc Kenzie,s death to be vain and as such we must revisit how our students’ athletes are treated.
The time has come for us to put in measures to protect our student athletes.
Firstly, is there a medical insurance scheme for our students athletes to assist them to cover medical costs whenever they get injured if no, why not? Additionally, we need to ask whether there is a group life insurance scheme for our student athletes to assist their families in the event of death. If this is not yet in place surely now is as good a time for such a scheme to be implemented. Oftentimes we tend to forgive that death can come at any time in one’s life. The sacrifices and glory to school and nation by our student athletes should not go unrewarded. The least we can do as a society is to reciprocate in any way possible given these athletes level of commitment over the years.
We also need to ask ourselves what measures are in place to measure to test the level of fitness for our athletes before we allow them to compete whether locally, regionally or on the international arena? Do we administer stress level tests to our students’ athletes before competition? Are our student athletes required to do a physical medical examination before we deem them suitable for competition? With the pending Boys and Girls Championship we should ask ourselves have we done all than we can to protect our athletes from all these eventualities?
Maybe it’s time parents become more proactive and form themselves into a lobby group, probably call it “Parents of Student Athletes”. Parents need to take a more active role in their children life. Parents must work together to bring about the changes necessary regarding the welfare and protection of their children. Too many of our students athletes suffer whenever they are injured because their parents and or guardians are unable to afford medical care. A delay in proper medical care can end the career and dash hopes of a scholarship for a student athlete. 
An area of concern is the nutrition of our student athletes. Are our student athletes eating a balanced diet? I make references not only to students who compete in track and field but also to other sports such as, football, rugby, and netball.
Last but by no means least we must ensure that our student athletes are knowledgeable about banned supplements/substances as outlined by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA?)
The time has come for the government of Jamaica to create a student athletes policy to guide the welfare of our current and future track stars. Let us not wait until another tragedy comes our way before we act on this matter. Jamaica’s continued success in track and field is dependent upon the decisions our policy makers must take. We owe it to our athletes and indeed to the country to ensure we put all measures in place to preserve our rich history in athletics.

Wayne Campbell