Friday, 27 June 2014

Food For Thought

"There are two emerging schools of thought that have been forwarded with regards to boys' underachievement. Firstly, there are those who claim that boys' underachievement is a direct result of the emphasis that has been placed on girls and women. Secondly, there are those who locate the problem in relation to wider social changes and how this impacts males, particularly adolescent males with regards to their view of masculinity and schooling"-Wayne Campbell

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Quote of the Day

"We spend too much time analyzing and dissecting our problems and too little time trying to find solutions to our problems"-Wayne Campbell

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Religious Freedom

The freedom of the 27 Christian Sudanese woman over the weekend from a pending death sentence is welcome news. Many in the international community were sent into a state of shock to  learn that apostasy was a crime punishable by death. Apostasy is the abandonment of one's religion. Apostasy can also be defined as the total rejection of Christianity by a baptized person who, having at one time professed the Christian faith publicly rejects it. It is distinguished from heresy, which is limited to the rejection of one or more Christian doctrines by one who maintains an overall adherence to Jesus Christ. Sudan introduced Islamic Shariah law in the early 1980s under the rule of autocrat Jaafar Nimeiri, contributing to the resumption of an insurgency in the mostly animist and Christian south of Sudan. The south seceded in 2011 to become the world's newest nation, South Sudan.
The condemnation from the international community was swift and forceful and probably led to the freeing of this Sudanese woman who was pregnant at the time the death sentence was handed out.
Among all religious groups, Christians are the most likely to be persecuted worldwide, according to a 2014 report by the Pew Research Center. At the end of the day all countries should and must respect the religious choice and freedoms of their citizens.

Wayne Campbell

Friday, 20 June 2014

Quote of the Day

"The primary responsibility of the present generation is to fully equip the next generation with the necessary and requisite skills set and knowledge to take over the reins of leadership in the society"-Wayne Campbell

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Failing Schools Syndrome

The script has become quite familiar and rather expected. It would be an understatement to say all is not well with Jamaica’s education system.  This notion was recently reinforced by the analysis and findings of the 2013 Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) results by Educate Jamaica.  According to Educate Jamaica, a leading think thank organization, seventy five (75) per cent of all the secondary schools in Jamaica are under performing. Correspondingly, only twenty five (25) per cent of all post primary schools in Jamaica are producing graduates capable of passing five or more subjects at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) level inclusive of English Language and Mathematics.  A minimum of five CSEC subjects are required by Jamaican students in order to matriculate into tertiary level studies and or to enter the world of work. Disturbingly, three quarters of our secondary schools are not able to meet this minimum target. This is nothing new and has been the case for quite a while as our policy makers’ scurry to find solutions to tackle and address this crisis of national importance. 
Among the top performing schools we clearly see a trend. All top ten performing schools can be classified as church schools and as such it is apparent that there is great involvement of the particular denomination and the operation of their respective school.
Interestingly, seven of the top ten schools are single sex girls’ schools with three of the top ten offering boarding facilities.  In all probability the time has come for us as a society to revisit the issue of boarding schools in an effort to expand this service. This undoubtedly would provide much need structure and discipline to many of our students who are currently not benefitting from such an environment in many of our schools? 
Additionally, our boys are more at risk as is evident from the 2013 CSEC results in which no all boys school was listed among the top ten performing schools.  As a result the discourse continues and will intensify regarding the underperformance and under achievement of our males in the education system.
The Jamaica society is one in which there is an unquenchable fixation with focusing on our problems, we continue to do this at our peril. We need to foster and develop a culture of problem solving instead of merely identifying our problems. We spend too much time analyzing and dissecting our problems and too little time trying to find solutions to our problems.
One thing is glaringly and blinding clear as we scrutinize the issue of Jamaica’s education system. It’s all about that management. Management is at the root of the issue of both failing and top performing schools.
In order to fix the problem of failing secondary schools we need to take some radical decisions. One of which must be to strengthen the mechanism of accountability within the education system. Of course there can be no accountability without transparency. The Ministry of Education must strengthen the mechanism in place to monitor all schools especially those who are deemed as failing. Let us look for a minute at Robert Lightbourne High School which has a capacity of 900 students. According to the principal the current population is just under 300 students. Yet with such a low student population the school did not have passes in the 2013 CSEC examinations and was placed at the bottom of the underperforming schools. Clearly, such an institution needs the scaffolding of not only the Ministry of Education but all the stakeholders involved in the business of education. 
Immaculate Conception High was placed at the top of the best performing schools having had all their fifth form cohort passing five or more subjects including Mathematics and English Language. They are to be commended, however, let us be fair, had the results for Immaculate been otherwise something would have been terribly wrong since Immaculate Conception receives the best performing students from the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) with an average score of 95 per cent and above in all subjects.  The reality we face in Jamaica is that too many of our schools are schools of last resort.
Robert Lightbourne or Penwood High School is not a school of choice. We need to change it. It can be change; it must be changed with the input of all stakeholders.  Teachers should and must have a say in the operation of their school. Our schools are not sole partnerships of principals only.  Failure to address this now will see us back here ten years time revisiting this same issue.
We must find some practical and short term solutions to address this national crisis.        
Frankly, it may be necessary to revamp the management team of some of those failing schools in order to turn them around. Principals should be on contracts. The buck stops with them as Chief Operating Officer. We must take the necessary steps to rescue our failing schools or else there is no future for Jamaica.
In too many instances principals do not have the confidence of their general staff due mainly to their divisive management styles. In many failing school there is an abundance of unease and discord brewing below the surface. Undoubtedly, this will and does affect the performance of our schools. 
Additionally, we need to take a serious approach to how we constitute our school boards. We must appoint people of impeccable character and requisite educational background to serve on school boards. The time to take politics out of the education system is now failure to do so will only worsen the failing school syndrome which is spreading like a cancer.
We need Jamaica’s private sector to become more involved in the business of education. Our private sector needs to invest more in education. Maybe it would be useful for the private sector to adopt a struggling school. The government alone cannot turn around or correct the varied problems associated the education system. 
The community must become more proactive and protect the interest of the schools in their area.  The Alumnae Association must take a serious interest in the operation of their school.
Finally, our parents and guardians must become more involved in their children education.
Parents must monitor homework and make regular checks with the school they child attends.
Our parents must attend regularly parent teachers meeting. It cannot that as a parent you don’t know what grade your child is in.  That’s not good enough and shows a lack of interest in your child welfare and development.  Poverty is no excuse for being integrally involved in your child’s development.
In the final analysis it is going to require a collaborative effort from all the stakeholders to fix the education system. Both short and long term plans will be required to address the ills of our education system. There can be no sustainable development with an education system will is under performing.
The primary responsibility of the present generation is to fully equip the next generation with the necessary and requisite skills set and knowledge to take over the reins of leadership in the society.    

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

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Onion Shortage in Jamaica

Approximately four years ago Jamaica experienced an onion shortage. At the time of the shortage there was an effort made to encourage and increase the local production of onion to offset any such shortage in the future. However, we are back to square one as was evident this past weekend as there was another shortage of onions on the local market. As a result the price of onions was artificially higher than usual as the market adjusted to the economics of demand and supply. A pound of onions usually cost about $80-$100 per pound, however, over the weekend the price doubled reaching as much as $200 per pound.
As a country we are too dependent on foreign imports to satisfy local food consumption. In 2010 it was reported that Jamaica imported approximately $US4Million worth of onions annually. There is a very high demand for onions locally as the average Jamaican household apparent has had a love affair with this popular seasoning. Jamaicans consume about 12,000 tonnes of onions each year, however, the country only produces a fraction of the onions required for local consumption. In fact, some data suggest that Jamaica is only able to grow less than ten per cent of the overall consumption of onions. We cannot continue to use scare foreign exchange to import more than ninety per cent of onions. The same holds true for other imported foods.  Jamaica spends a staggering one billion United States dollars on food imports.
Yes, we can substitute onions. However, let us not lose focus. We need to drastically cut our importation food bill.  A country’s development cannot be complete unless food security is adequately addressed.  Food security is a matter of National Security.

Wayne Campbell

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Father,s Day 2014

The true measure of a good father is not in monetary terms, instead this measurement is rooted in the sacrifices made and the quality time spent with one's children. There is much more to fatherhood than a biological fact.
Happy father,s day!

Poem-The Heroes Journey

The Heroes Journey

Sitting in the front row,
Attentively looking, trying to mask the truth
Why he is wasting his time and gambling his future away?
Well groomed and soft spoken, no one could tell
Do some work, the teacher yelled.
Nothing stirs his emotionless face
A million and one excuses
Masculinity being interrogated!
Awaken from his slumber he must
I expect him to succeed
Along the Heroes Journey

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Two Ounces Or Less-Marijuana

In a major shift, Jamaica has announced that the country’s Cabinet has approved a proposal that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.
The proposed amendment to the country’s Dangerous Drugs Act ((which has been approved by Cabinet but still needs to go be introduced and approved by Parliament)) would mean that the possession of small quantities of marijuana for personal use would be a ticketable infraction and not a criminal offence.
Possession of two ounces or less would become a non-arrestable infraction “attracting a monetary penalty which shall be payable outside the court system and which does not give rise to a criminal record,” Justice Minister Mark Golding said Thursday.
Failure to pay the ticket within 30 days will be a minor offence punishable in the Petty Sessions Court by an order of community service.
Additionally, if the person found in possession of marijuana in such quantities is a minor, he or she will be referred to the National Council for Drug Abuse for treatment under the Drug Court.
The government said that the smoking of ganja should not be permitted in places where the smoking of tobacco was not allowed, meaning only in private places.
And in a nod to the country’s large Rastafarian community, the government said it would also amend the law so that the possession of ganja for religious purposes (or for therapeutic purposes under a medical prescription), would also be decriminalized.

Friday, 13 June 2014

World Cup 2014

Do you think there is justification for Brazil spending over $11 billion dollars to host the World Cup Finals, while at the same time, their education and health care systems are in need of funding and reform? Additionally, Brazil's public transportation system is in dire need of upgrading. 
So while millions of people are being entertained by the spectacle of the "greatest show on earth", many Brazilians are suffering and are being tear gas for speaking out and letting their anger and dissatisfaction known.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Recognise Work Of Pedestrain Crossers

There are many categories of unsung heroes in the Jamaican society. The tendency is for us to ignore them. However, the greatness of any society is measured in terms of how the least among the populace is treated. The time has come for us as a people to pause to pay tribute to, and formally recognized the sterling contribution of the numerous individuals who work as pedestrians crossers across the island.

These categories of workers are mainly found in front of our schools where they assist our children in crossing the busy thorough fare daily.  They are always smartly clad in their white coats with their wooden “Stop Children Crossing Sign”.
These unassuming Jamaicans have for the most part been forgotten by the society. However, their invaluable contribution to the nation’s children and to the development of our human resources should not go without recognition.

Sadly, many of these persons of both sexes have died without being formally recognized. Yet, many are now retired. A new generation has emerged continuing the proud tradition of service to their fellow Jamaicans. Their service is characterized with commitment and dedication to task. However, due to a lack of formal recognition many of our pedestrian crossers have fallen on hard times and have been left out in the cold. Many are without a pension and many are struggling to make ends meet. Additionally there is no health benefit for these workers. 
They continue to be treated as the invisible and voiceless among us. In spite of the harsh economic times we should remember and pay tribute to our unsung heroes?

Wayne Campbell

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Poem- Atmosphere

One moment sunshine smiling through puffy balls of cotton clouds
Floating on angels’ wings
Then in the blink of an eye
The afternoon sky pulls down her dark grey curtains
Tall dark columns fill the summer sky
Shattering lightning
The clanking, loud, outburst of thunder roaring across the sky
Mother Nature at her worst
That strange, familiar, earthy aroma permeates the air
Raindrops tickling my nostrils
It’s almost here!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Jamaica Teachers Association Presidential Elections

The upcoming Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) election for president- elect has not generated as much buzz as in former years. There have been whispers in education circles as to a possible reason/s for this rather dull and uninspiring campaign among the candidates vying to become leader of the 20,000 plus teachers in the public education system.
Two possibilities have emerged to explain the lack of interest generated thus far in the election which is less than two weeks away. Is it possible that the 2014 candidates are not as imposing as in former years? Secondly, is it that voter apathy which affects the general voting population has now caught up with the eligible voters in the upcoming JTA election? Regardless of the answer there has not been a clear favourite among the candidates vying to win this most coveted position. This occurrence is rather strange and disappointing especially since the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) is celebrating its fiftieth year’s anniversary.  
The Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) serves both as a trade union and a professional body for the
over 20,000 teachers in the public school system.  A number of issues have once again emerged as
the candidates enter the final two weeks for the June 16-20 president- elect election of 2014.  One
troubling issue is the facts that principals have a clear advantage over classroom teachers in the
annual JTA president- elect elections. The history of past JTA presidents clearly supports this. In
many quarters the debate rages on as to whether the JTA should represent both principals and
classroom. It is reason to argue that once one becomes a principal or vice principal his/her
concerns/interests/needs change from that of the average classroom teacher. Campaigning in any election is financially burdensome. It takes cash to launch and conduct a successful campaign. Therefore each candidate must be in a good financial position to do so.
Each candidate is expected to travel around to all 14 parishes to speak to teachers at various schools in order to get their support; in fact, such an exercise is rather costly. In quite a number of instances the classroom teacher does not own a vehicle, while in most instances principals do. Principals also receive travelling allowance which clearly puts them at an advantage over the classroom teacher. The elections would be more balanced if the Jamaica Teachers Association were to set aside some sort of travelling allowance so that candidates who are in need of such support could benefit. This intervention would undoubtedly would put the elections on a more transparent and fair platform for all candidates.  Additionally, classroom teachers who are candidates in JTA elections need time off from school to campaign. This classroom teacher in this regard is also at a disadvantage. A principal has the privilege of taking the time off from school while this position of privilege does not extent to the classroom teacher. Some special leave entitlement should be afforded to classroom teachers who are candidates in these elections.
Historically males are privileged regarding the presidency of the Jamaica Teachers Association. The
country is woefully lacking in leadership. We are in need of transformational leadership at this time
in our country’s development. Our leaders have a significant role in play in the development and progress of our society.  The Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) needs to move ahead with the times and organize and implement debates among all candidates. We need to hear all the candidates articulate their plans and vision to move JTA forward. We need to hear their plans for education in general. Debates would be quite useful in that all the stakeholders involved in education could judge for themselves the suitability or lack thereof of candidates.
Let us be reminded that the most popular candidate is not necessarily the best to lead. In voting for the next president I urge educators to search themselves thoroughly and vote for that candidate who is best suited to represent their interest and the image of the teacher in the 21st century.

Wayne Campbell

Monday, 2 June 2014

A Hair Principle

Recently, a fourth form male student at Kingston Technical High School was prevented from doing
his Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination because the school authorities
were of the opinion that his hair was too “high”. While I am support the notion that students should
obey the rules of their respective educational institutions I strongly believe that in this instance the
punishment outweighs the crime. I am very much aware of the challenges many of our schools
undergo daily in trying to get students to adhere to the regulations, however, there comes a time
when good sense and one’s initiative should prevail when dealing with youngsters.

It is most unacceptable that a few minutes before this young man was to sit his examination he was
told by senior managers at the school that his hair was too and that he had the option to go and get
a haircut and return to sit the examination. We all have been through examinations and we all know
how nervous and tense one can be prior and during examinations. A better solution would have
been for the school authorities to get a pair of scissors and cut off some of the youngster hair and
allow him to sit his examination. Had this been done we would not be having this discussion.

As a result of the actions of the school a number of questions are left to be answered. Among them are who will pay the entry and examination fee for this young man to sit the examination next year?
Was his right to an education breached in terms of denying him access to sit this external examination? What exactly does too ‘high’ means regarding his hair? Who set this too high hair rule?  What if any is the role of the Ministry of Education regarding the hair cut/height of male students? Would a Rastafarian student be told the same thing? Would a female student be treated in a similar manner?
What if this young man was from a prominent family would he have been told the same thing or
would some allowance be made for him to sit the examination? What message are we sending to our students when we are so rigid on one hand while denying our students access to an education. Interestingly, Jamaica is a signatory to the Convention of the Rights of the Child which clearly state that every child has a right to an education which includes access, therefore influencing a student not to sit an examination is an infringement on the Rights of the Child.
No one is arguing that schools should turn a blind eye to students breaking school rules, however, it
how we approach and handle such incidents which speak volume and which set us apart in terms of
being good managers and role models.

Clearly, the Office of the Children’s Advocate needs to further examine this matter.  This is certainly
not the way we should end Childs Month 2014.

“Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy” –St Matthew chapter 5 verse 7.

Wayne Campbell