Thursday, 24 December 2015

Text Language And The Education Sytem

Most of us in the Caribbean speak an English Creole as our first language.  Despite this, we are expected, and sometimes forced, to speak and write a standard form of English in formal situations, such as what occurs in the classroom. As a result, we are likely to learn a standard, Caribbean English as our second language. However, this process has become more challenging with the influence and interference of text language which has seeped into formal writing and expression. Text language is an abbreviated form of jargon and or vernacular which has gained acceptance by users of various social media platforms. It is widely utilized by users of cellular phones to communicate with each other. Some educators refer to the process of development which all second language learners experience as interlanguage. Interlanguage includes some forms of the second language, with a mixture of other structures from the first language as well as from environmental influences. Ever since the increase of Social Media, such as Twitter, WhastApp, Facebook and Instagram among others, many of our students have been using text language for academic purposes.  This development should be a cause for concern not only for educators, but the wider society since many students who regularly use text language will sooner or later not realize or know when to “draw the line” and conform to formal language.  The widespread usage of text language in formal communication and expression also serves as a barrier to communication. In many instances there is a disconnect between the intended message of the writer and how the reader interprets that message. The period of adolescence is a time of exploration.  However, our youngsters, for the most part have not fully yet developed their language competencies and therefore the flexibility with which adults can use both forms of the language is not afforded to them.  Additionally, text language has become trendy among teenagers, and at that phase of their development there is a strong will to feel a sense of belonging.   It bears thought that as a society, we need to revisit our efforts in safeguarding the language of our people in order to ensure that our youngsters are prepared to continue the journey toward sustainable development. With the proliferation of social media we might not be able to eradicate text language usage; however, we can slow its progression by making a conscious effort not to be a part of this new wave of short-handed communications method.
Wayne Campbell

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

World AIDS Day

December 1 is celebrated globally as World Aids Day. As in previous years this year the call to action is for an expansion of antiretroviral therapy to all people living with HIV which is the key to ending the AIDS epidemic within a generation, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The day is also a way to demonstrate international solidarity for people living with HIV and to commemorate the spirit of those who have died battling the deadly disease. The theme for the 2015 “On the Fast Track to End AIDS”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) some 35 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, of this number 3. 2 million are children. Since the first cases of HIV/AIDS were reported in 1981 some 39 million individuals have died. 
It is estimated that some 240,000 people in the Caribbean are living with HIV/AIDS. Jamaica has an estimated 32, 000 people living with HIV/AIDS. The Caribbean is second to Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of HIV prevalence. The WHO estimates that over seventy percent of those infected live in the Sub-Saharan region.
It is estimated that The Bahamas has the highest HIV prevalence in the Caribbean at 3.1 percent of its adult population, Trinidad and Tobago has a HIV prevalence rate of 1.5 percent of adult population and Jamaica’s HIV prevalence rate is 1.7 of its adult population.  The Caribbean like many other parts of the world continue to struggle with discrimination and stigma as it relates to those individuals who have been infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.  To some extent this stigma and discrimination is borne out of many misconceptions and myths surrounding the transmission of this virus. As a result many persons who are afflicted with this disease choose not to disclose their status with their partner/s and family members out of a fear of being rejected. The unwillingness among the wider society to show passion and kindness contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS.  It is this entrenched discrimination and an unforgiving culture that helps to fuels the spread of AIDS.  For many young Jamaicans who are embarking on their sexual journey it is very daunting for them to readily access condoms. 
We need to eradicate the stigma that is very much alive and pervasive in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica. We need to thoroughly examine the various messages that are being circulated especially within the popular culture, some of which are clearly negative. Probably, we need to use more of the popular culture art form to fight the harmful spirit of stigma and discrimination which is still an issue regarding HIV/AIDS.  The availability of antiretroviral drugs has contribution greatly to delay the progression from HIV to AIDS. In fact with advanced treatment individuals with HIV are almost at undetectable levels due to the breakthrough in medical science. Such treatment and medication have drastically improved the quality of the life for those living with AIDS. We now live in a time that with diet, exercise and medication (which is relatively expensive) an individual who is HIV positive can live well into his/her 70,s which was not possible some years ago. However, we should never let our guard down regarding HIV/AIDS; instead we should continue to educate the population using all available resources and media, including social media to promote a message of sexual responsibility and healthy lifestyle choices for all Jamaicans.  It is critical that we all know our HIV status, get tested today.
Wayne Campbell