Monday, 19 October 2015

More Awareness Required On Charter Of Rights

"Discrimination has a lot of layers that make it tough for minorities to get a leg up". Bill Gates
In light of the recommendation by the Office of the Public Defender that St. Hilda’s Diocesan High School reinstate Jade Bascoe as head girl after investigations revealed that her rights were infringed, it bear thought whether or not the rights of other Jamaican students have been abused in the past.
The education system has many minority groups. We live in a society where the voices of those who are labelled as different are rarely heard. Apart from Jehovah Witnesses we also have students who are Seventh Day Adventist and Rastafarians. Are the rights of those students being infringed upon regarding their involvement in sports or any other school related activity?
As far as I know, Sundays are not included in the regular scheduling of sporting events, such as, the Manning and daCosta Cup football competitions.
The Inter- Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) is also responsible for schoolboy basketball and cricket. These sporting events are not played on Sundays. As a result, boys who are desirous of playing football, cricket and basketball and who are Adventist will not be able to participate in those Saturday matches. Conversely, girls who play netball and are Adventists would be restricted from playing in Saturday games. Why is it that we cannot have Sundays as part of the regular schedule of play in order to have a more inclusive mix of all denominations and faith?
This is an area that the Inter- Secondary School Sports Association (ISSA) should examine. ISSA is after all the governing body for inter- secondary school sporting events in Jamaica.
In addition some students may also be denied the opportunity to become head prefects or part of student government simply on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation. It is likely we may have a situation where a head prefect’s appointment is revoked because he/she does not speak Standard English, or on the basis of where he/she lives.
Are we mature enough as a society to promote a student who is a Rasta head boy or head girl of our church-owned high schools?
The education system should serve as a catalyst of change and not a remnant of historical biases to hinder the development of our students. Jamaica’s education system should foster a culture of tolerance and cooperation instead of hatred and intolerance. Disturbingly, many of us as Jamaicans are not aware of our Rights and this contribute greatly to our rights being trampled on. In the 150th anniversary year of the Morant Bay Rebellion, let us exhibit some of the courage of our forefathers and speak up for our rights as Jamaicans.
It would be such a great service to the nation if the Office of the Public Defender were to embark on a public information campaign to raise the awareness of Jamaicans regarding the Charter of Rights.  
In the words of the United Nations General Secretary Ban Ki- moon “defeating racism, tribalism, intolerance and all forms of discrimination will liberate us all, victim and perpetrator alike.

Wayne Campbell

Thursday, 15 October 2015

More Pressing Issues Than Length of Uniform

It is out of sheer ignorance that I pen this letter to enquire of my learned colleagues to share with me and the wider society any research in any discipline where there is a co-relation between female students wearing long uniforms and increase educational outcomes. For all practical purposes having a skirt 11 inches below one’s knee is not practical on many grounds. In the first instance the fabric of many school uniform is made from polyester gabardine and with a tropical marine climate such as that of Jamaica these uniforms become extremely hot during the course of the day. Let us be reminded that for the most part Jamaican classrooms are not air-conditioned.
Secondly, why should female students be forced to wear formal wear to school? Yes, formal wear. The length of some of these uniforms mimics those of haute couture gowns which are only worn to formal occasions. Having an uniform eleven inches below the one,s knee has nothing to do with education. We need to ask ourselves the question are we serious about providing our students with an education, or are we into the creating more distractions with already plague the Jamaican education system.
The education system is beset by problems such as bullying, which oftentimes goes unreported in many instances or in some cases students dispense their own justice after the failure of many schools to address same. The issue of school violence urgently needs to addressed. Schools are no longer safe places of learning but, instead, battlefields where only the fittest survive. Data from the Ministry of Education put the matter in perspective: For the period 2011 to 2013, a total of 1,288 violent incidents were recorded in the nation's schools. These included robberies, fights and three deaths.
The continued under achievement and under participation of our males urgently needs be addressed if Jamaica hope to have sustainable development. Sustainable development cannot be achieved if one sex is marginalized. The exodus of our teachers of Mathematics in such of better working conditions and remuneration needs urgent attention.  Given that Mathematics is a critical pillar of the  Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programme, our policy makers should be looking to address these vital issues than spending man power and other resources to  suspend female students whose uniforms do not meet the required 11 inches below the knee rule. Until one of these female students trip over the ridiculous length of their uniform and suffer some serious injury resulting in the parents or guardians suing the school only then will common sense prevail. As a society we continue to major in the minor issues with our myopic view of social issues in a globalized context.

Wayne Campbell

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Arrest the Exodus of Mathematics Teachers

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today. Malcolm X
There is a currently an advertisement on local television which is endorsed by the Ministry of Education which uses popular comedians Icy and Fancy Fat to highlight the importance of mathematics education in the general society. However, while this is commendable given the general fear of mathematics that a significant number of Jamaican students have this has done very little to curb the high attribution rate of teachers of Mathematics across the island.
Given the low remuneration of teachers, and the general poor working conditions those teachers who specialize in Mathematics education are in high demand and are being enticed to leave the noble profession. Additionally, the high levels of indiscipline among students in which teachers have been verbally and physically abused is also another factor which is contributing to the exodus of teachers of Mathematics especially to more lucrative paying jobs both locally and overseas. One cannot lay blame on those teachers who leave the profession for better opportunities since maths counts and at the end of the day we all are desirous of living a comfortable life.
According to Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites, some 70 mathematics and science teachers have exited Jamaican classrooms since January, with the number expected to increase. The numbers speaks to the gravity of the problem we face regarding our inability to retain teachers of Mathematics and Science.  In most instances those teachers who have left the classroom/profession are among the most experienced and brightest. As a society we tend to be reactive instead of proactive. We should have put measures in place a long time ago to address this long standing problem. This is certainly not a new issue, and by not giving it the full attention it deserves the problem has only gotten worse.
According to Dr. Chance Lewis of the University of North Carolina- Charlotte, between 60 t0 70 percentages of black male teachers leave the profession after three years. He added that those males who remain after three years are usually promoted to vice principals and or principals.  The exodus of teachers of Mathematics from our schools should be a cause of grave concern for the Ministry of Education, as well as other stakeholders especially since the Education Ministry is pushing ahead with its Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programme across the island. STEM cannot be realized without a cohort of experienced and dedicated teachers of Mathematics.
The plight of Jamaicans fear of Mathematics is highlighted in the data from the education ministry which shows that performance in the 2015 Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in mathematics declined some 3.7 per cent. Additionally, the decline in students' performances in mathematics-related subjects in the 2015 CAPE results was even worse, as there was a 5.4 percentage point decrease in the average pass rate for combined units of pure mathematics and a 10.1 percentage point decline in applied mathematics. This is unacceptable if we hope to have a first world status any time soon.
A number of principals have expressed concerned and rightly so regarding the implications this exodus of Mathematics teachers as well teachers of mathematics related subjects will have on external examinations and for the future development of the country.
As a society we are going to pay dearly if creative measures are not arrived at and implemented in an attempt to reverse the trend of the exodus of our teachers of Mathematics.    
In the words of Nelson Mandela education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
#education #development #teachers #migration #Jamaica
Wayne Campbell

Monday, 12 October 2015

Violence in the Classroom- A Personal Account

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself-John Dewey
School safety is the foundation on which the teaching and learning process is embedded. Jamaica has had and continues to have a serious problem with crime and violence. We live in a violent society and the violence we experience daily has slowly crept into our schools and classrooms. Many Jamaicans have had to install surveillance cameras and grills in their homes to give them an added level of protection and peace of mind in the midst of the growing levels of violence. Notwithstanding this, our schools and by extension our classrooms have not been immune to what happens in the wider society where crime and violence is ever increasing. On Tuesday, October 6, 2015 my life changed in a drastic way. At approximately 1 pm I was in a grade 9 class teaching. During the lesson I was hit in my left ear by an object which based on where I was standing was fired from a student from the class. My back was turned to the class since I was writing on the chalkboard. When I asked who fired the object which later turned out to be a toy gun no one claimed responsibility. However, I saw a male student with the toy gun in his hands when I turned around to face the class. He was later identified by other students of the class as the one responsible for firing the toy gun. Within minutes of the incident occurring I made a report to the grade nine supervisor. I had to seek medical attention the following day, Wednesday, October 7, 2015 due to the severe pain and discomfort I was experiencing. An examination by the doctor revealed an abrasion to my left ear. I am still experiencing pain and discomfort in my left ear as a result of the injury sustained. I am not sure whether this injury to my ear will have any long term effects. I am hoping and praying that it does not. On my return to work on Monday, October 12, 2015  I handed the principal a written report of the incident. The principal immediately sent for the student. I feel a sense of violation. I am extremely upset. This was an intentional act of violence. However, I am comforted by the fact that a few of the students of the class have expressed their disgust with their classmate behavior. They have also expressed deep sorrow for what happened to me on the afternoon of October 6, 2015. Yet, each time I go to a classroom and turn my back to write on the chalkboard I get anxious not knowing if I will become target practice for some student.
Schools are to be safe zones for both students and teachers. I did not expect that my own students would have harmed me in this way. Added to this personal injury is the culture of silence which is pervasive in the wider Jamaican society. A number of students in the class knew who the culprit was who fired the toy gun, however, maybe out of fear they were unwilling at the time of the incident to disclose his name.
During the same week of October 5, 2015 a male student of Brown's Town High School was stabbed to death on the school's campus by another male student. Two more Jamaican male students have had their education disrupted by violence. One is dead and the other is in police custody. What happened at Brown's Town High School on Thursday has an all-too-familiar ring, as more and more violent encounters are recorded in our school community. The latest victim is a Jamala Barnaby, a grade-11 student of Brown's Town High. The news could have been worse because three other students were injured in another incident in Spanish Town earlier this week. Disturbingly, when these incidents occur, one is tempted to conclude that schools are no longer safe places of  teaching and learning but, instead, battlefields. Data from the Ministry of Education reinforces the gravity of the situation regarding security and safety our schools are facing. For the period 2011 to 2013, a total of 1,288 violent incidents were recorded in the nation's schools. These included robberies, fights and 3 deaths.
The classroom has become a battle ground where a toxic and crude version of masculinity exists which robs our male students of their full potential. This toxic notion of masculinity is played out daily in the interaction our men have with women, as well as male to male interaction. Alarmingly, not much is being done to curb this unacceptable behaviour. We need to act now to change this narrative. Our schools must return to safe zones for all stakeholders. The state and school must be responsible for the safety of all teachers and students while they are at school. There needs to be some form of compensation for teachers who are injured on the job. This is certainly an area that the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) could and need to explore. There should be some insurance for teachers to access who are injured by students while on the job. It cannot be business as usual. This is what is so wrong with Jamaica. Jamaica's education system lack accountability at all levels and until measures are put in place we can expect to have more incidence of violence in our schools. 
I am still awaiting some form of justice. School safety is the most critical pillar of the teaching and learning experience. If our teachers do not feel safe, they cannot be as effective as they ought to in the classroom. Conversely, if our students do not feel safe, they cannot learn. I hope that my personal account serves as a catalyst or call to action for the Ministry of Education and other stakeholders in education to work assiduously to ensure that our schools develop a zero-tolerance approach against violence in any form or shape. Clearly much more resources are required. Some schools needs more scaffolding than others regarding school safety. I have forgiven the student who attacked me. I hope he gets the help that he needs to turn his life around. 
In the words of Mahatma Gandhi "The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong".
#schoolsafety #education #violence #occupationalsafety #security #parenting #classroom #crime #pain #suffering