Sunday, 28 August 2016

The Battle To Engage Students

The discourse surrounding the lack of interest by some students have been making the rounds in recent times. As we look ahead to the start of a new academic year it is perhaps a good time to revisit the issue from another perspective. There is huge problem in Jamaica regarding student under-participation at all levels of the education system. The time has come for us to put measures in place to capture the interest and imagination of our students, especially our boys who are grappling with male underachievement.  We need to ask the question how can schools build a culture that takes students beyond mere engagement to ownership of their learning? It is difficult perhaps even impossible to have a discussion about student ownership in education without mentioning John Dewey. In his book, Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education (1916), Dewey, showed a link between student involvement and student ownership. According to Dewey, the type of activities that stimulate real involvement “give pupils something to do, not something to learn; and the doing is of such a nature as to demand thinking, or the intentional noting of connections; learning naturally results”. In Jamaica, the disconnect between student involvement and student ownership is chronic and ever widening. We have created and continue to foster a school climate where students’ views and opinions are not taken considered seriously enough in the planning of schools activities. This disjointed approach to education, if not corrected soon will continue to have negative consequences for learning as well as student outcomes.  
Student-Centered Approach
Historically, our education system has been one of teacher centeredness which invariably has turned off many of our students. Interestingly, the education ministry will be introducing a new National Standard Curriculum for the start of the 2016/2017 academic year. This new curriculum will replace the Reform of Secondary Education (ROSE) curriculum and is more student-centered with an emphasis on the use of Information Communication Technology (ICT).  Those who plan policies and programmes for our education system need to spend some time engaging with students,  it will then become clear that the issue of relevance is of great importance and concern to students. Students by nature are curious and are desirous to know what relevance education is to them especially as it relates to their real life. It is a fair question and we too went through a similar process during our time as students.
Students will always feel a sense of attachment and entitlement when pertinent issues which reflect their interests, their passions and their identities are addressed. Gone as those days when students will sit still in a teacher- centered teaching and learning environment.  Given the proliferation of social media and the diversity of the internet the world has become a global village. We are all connected to each other no matter the geographical divide. Regardless of whether these issues are related to curriculum or extra-curricular activities, roles that students consistently identify as meaningful ought to enable them to participate in the design, facilitation and assessment with the aim of improving their schools and enhancing the teaching and learning environment.
The Five E's
We need to move away from those practices which were ineffective for the learner of the 20th century.  The new National Standard Curriculum is based on the 5 E’s of the 21st century learner. These are: engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration and evaluation. The learner of the 21st century is one who must be engaged at all steps throughout the teaching and learning process in order to maximize his/her outcome more so in an era of globalization. The 21st century learner is one who is engaged in a student-driven educational planning programme with avenues for exploration and explanation. Too many students are falling through the cracks simply because they find school to be a dull and boring place. We are losing out on the creativity of our youth population if we just sit idly by and allow students to drop out of school.
Students As Teachers
One area of student involvement which needs more examination is that of students as teachers. We need to view students as teachers. Dennis Harper, an advocate for the student as a teacher and founder of Generation YES, developed a programme where by students instructed teachers how to use technology in their classroom. This collaboration between students and teachers creates a framework for the architecture of ownership of the learner. Jamaica education system would certainly benefit from such a programme and would curtail the high dropout rate of our students, especially our boys.
STEM Inclusion
The new curriculum is intricately woven to embrace STEM, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These critical areas in education are where the jobs of the 21st century are to be found. STEM also provide a backdrop for problem solving which a vital element and lacking in the wider society.
What Gets In The Way
A culture of ownership by the learner will also have positive benefits regarding the reduction of violent incidents at schools. According to data from the Ministry of Education, between 2011 and 2013, a total of 1288 violent incidents were recorded in the nation’s schools.  Student who feel a sense of entitlement and attachment to their schools are unlikely to engage in violent acts.       
We need to engender a culture in which our students are more involved in decision making.  This is what meaningful student involvement entails. We need to reawaken student government across all our schools. Additionally, student government provides an avenue for leadership skills and human capacity building. It bears thought that the State needs to narrow the digital divide which has separated our schools. We are aware of the budgetary constraints; however, much more needs to be done to level the education playfield with regards to having computers, overhead projectors, white boards etc. This should be common place in all schools. We also need to build a culture of transparency and accountability in our schools as it relates to storage and use of equipment. It ought not to be business as per usual for the 2016/2017 academic year.  We need to fashion a culture in which we see our students as partners as we move forward in embracing the 21st learner in building architecture of ownership. Our education system must be interactive in which all students will benefit from this experience.

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

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Towards A Gender Inclusive Public Transportation Policy

In spite of the significant progress women have made in almost all areas of public life; the issue of public transportation continues to be a sore point regarding gender equality. Regrettable, women still continue to feel unsafe in the public arena and much more needs to be done to reverse this trend. The journey to women’s fundamental right to freedom of movement continues to be plagued by male-induced harassment. For example, in Bogota, Columbia, ranked as the most dangerous city for a woman to take public transport in the world, six in every ten women report physically harassment while travelling. This is most unacceptable and requires government intervention to address this issue. A report issued by Plan International captured the fear of violence felt by adolescent girls in specific developing cities of Kampala, Delhi and Lima. Gender inequality has many variations and requires many interventions to bring about equality. There is an urgent need to include women in the discourse regarding public transportation. Regrettable, women are often left out of the decision making process in many areas of development. Disturbingly, the same research states that in Delhi, only 3.3 % of females reported always feeling safe while using public transport. Meanwhile, in Lima, only 2.2 % of females claim to feel secure when walking in public spaces. In Kampala, over 80 % of young women stated that they do not feel safe whilst in urban transition in general. While Jamaica was included in this Asia based research there are common themes for females worldwide. Many Jamaican women and girls are sexually harassed daily on our roads as well as on public transportation. Sadly, as a society we have developed and continue to nurture a culture of silence. This code of silence affects both sexes and facilitates the perpetuation of the verbal, sexual and physically harassment women experience daily on public transportation, in their private lives, as well as, in the public sphere. For the most part public transportation across the globe is traditionally a male dominated area in which policy makers and governments have not seriously sought to address gender inequality which characterizes the sector. In order to rectify this we need to work towards an inclusive public transportation policy in which the concerns of women are included in order to achieve sustainable development.
Policy makers must be mindful of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), otherwise known as the global goals in drafting policies. Of note is SDG 11 which speaks to making cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable, as well as, SDG 5 which emphasizes gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in society. Gender-based harassment whether in urban or rural areas is nothing to smile about and needs urgent attention. Our women and girls must feel a sense of safety and security as they go about their daily business. We will never attain sustainable development without first embracing a culture of gender equality.  
In the words of Kofi Annan, gender equality is more than a goal in itself. It is a precondition for meeting the challenge of reducing poverty, promoting sustainable development and building good governance.
Wayne Campbell

Friday, 19 August 2016

Children of War-Voiceless And Vulnerable

While many of us are glued to our television in the safety of our homes celebrating the successes of our athletes at the Rio Olympics, darkness and terror reign in a world not that far away where there is nothing to smile about. The haunting picture of a young bloodied Syrian boy rescued from a partially destroyed building in Aleppo has disturbed many of us. The image of a dazed looking boy, covered from head to toe in dust has been etched in our memories and will be with us for a long time. Disturbingly, 5 year old Omran Daqneesh has become the face of the suffering in Aleppo. The besieged city of Aleppo has more than 2 million people living there.  The Syrian war gone on now for over five years and yet there is no end in sight. The United Nations (UN) has been unable to get both sides of the conflict to commit in guaranteeing safe passage for convoys with food and medicine to reach those who are suffering in a conflict which has displaced millions of Syrians and have contributed immensely to the international refugee crisis. The flouting of the rules of the Geneva Conventions by all warring parties is as inhumane as the death and destruction caused by the civil war in Syria. The Geneva Conventions is a body of Public International Law, also known as the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts, whose purpose is to provide minimum protections, standards of humane treatment and fundamental guarantees of respect to individuals who become victims of armed conflicts. It is rather disturbing that despite the many wars the world has witnessed we have not learned the lessons from armed conflicts. It is unfortunate that grown men, many of whom are refereed to global statesmen, have allowed their egos and pride to get in the way of them arriving at a solution for the humanitarian crisis. Women and children are more at risk and vulnerable in times of war. Sadly, only a few days ago a hospital operated by the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Northern Yemen was bombed by a Saudi Arabia coalition killing a number of children. The United Nations certainly has its hands full as wars and rumours of wars are all across the planet. These international conflicts have frustrated the United Nation’s efforts to fulfill its humanitarian mandate while the images of the dying and injured continue to affect our psyche. It is obvious that diplomacy has failed to bring to an end the hostilities in Syria and elsewhere. The world today is very much interconnected and what happens in one part of the world will ultimately have consequences for people thousands of miles away. What will it take to stir the collective consciousness of our global leaders into action? What will it take for the world to wake up and say enough is enough? Who will speak for the voiceless and most vulnerable? In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.       
#Syria #Aleppo #WorldHumanitarianDay #UnitedNations #refugee #peace #humanrights #gender #GenevaConventions
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

World Humanitarian Day 2016

“In a world that is ever more digitally connected, each of us has the power and responsibility to inspire our fellow human beings to act to help others and create a more humane world." — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon
For those of us who do not live in a war- torn country or an area of the world torn apart by conflict we cannot fully understand and appreciate the dangerous and equally critical work of aid workers, who risk their lives in humanitarian service to bridge the divide between war and peace. Whether the conflict is on the battlefields of Syria, or South Sudan, Central African Republic, The Democratic Republic of the Congo and or Yemen, disagreement have been with us from time immemorial. Sadly, the average citizen usually bears the brunt of the strife when political leadership fails to prevent and or bring about an end to humanitarian crisis. The United Nations as a result has set aside August 19, to commemorate World Humanitarian Day.  The day was designated by the General Assembly seven years ago to coincide with the anniversary of the 2003 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, Iraq.  World Humanitarian Day is especially important in helping to raise the awareness for the millions of our fellow human beings who are suffering across the planet. According to the United Nations, more than 130 million people are suffering and require humanitarian assistance to survive. Disturbingly, women and children account for the majority of those who are in desperate need of assistance in order to get by due to conflicts. The theme for World Humanitarian Day (WHD) is “One Humanity”.  We are reminded almost daily on social media and traditional media about the ongoing conflicts which have ripped apart families and have left many as refugees. We need to urge global leaders to do more in terms of supporting the work of aid workers by providing funding for UN peace keepers, as well as, by adhering to the rules of war. International organizations, such as, the Red Cross must be given access to those who are suffering and require assistance during times of war. The theme of WHD serves as a reminder that regardless, of one’s skin colour, sex, religion, sexual orientation, or any other social indicator we are all impacted in the same manner by conflicts and disasters. The one humanity theme is a call to action in galvanizing our shared experiences in order to mobilize a common responsibility to demand action for the most vulnerable and at risk among us.  The UN and its partners each year organize events that will raise consciousness of the Agenda for Humanity and inspire people to demand greater global action for the millions of people displaced and ravaged by conflicts all across the world.
What can you do?
World Humanitarian Day is a day for everyone to come together and take action for a safer and more humane world for the communities affected by crisis and the people who devote their lives to helping them. Citizen participation is very much welcome and a number of activates can be done to get involved. One can learn about the agenda for humanity and the five core responsibilities. These are: political leadership to prevent and end conflicts, upholding the norms which safeguard humanity, leave no one behind, change people’s lives from delivering aid to ending need and finally, investing in humanity. Additionally, there is also the use of the #sharehumanity hashtag to advocate for the agenda for humanity and the more than 130 million people affected by crisis as well as attending or organizing a WHD event on Friday, August 19. We all have a responsibility to help in our own way to make this world a better place. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, every state has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crisis, whether natural or man-made.

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