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.