Tue | Sep 22, 2020

Jaevion Nelson | Swallowing hard lessons

Published:Friday | July 13, 2018 | 12:00 AM

There is a national crisis in the education system that has been staring at us for many years that does not seem to bother us or catalyse a sense of urgency and action. So many of our children can't be dunce and good for nothing. There is obviously a problem with the system and our leaders fail to take responsibility for it.

Earlier this week, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security announced that only 8,703 of the 34,885 students who completed fifth form in 2017 obtained qualification - five subjects including maths and English - to matriculate to a higher level of education.

This should get everyone's attention. Parliamentarians should be concerned and ought to use their offices to demand that we do something about this. There ought to be robust discussion in Parliament and a special House committee to come up with radical changes that will undo this injustice to our children.

It is unfair that taxpayers work so hard to finance an education system that only benefits a handful of students - 8,703 of 34,885 students.

Political leaders certainly aren't ignorant of the problems. They are acutely aware if they pay attention in Parliament, watch, listen and/or read news, and if they talk with their constituents. Our leaders continue to drag their feet with educational reform and are too comfortable with the cosmetic changes that are being implemented, which in reality will not result in much change.




What will it take for them to respond? A riot? How on earth can they all be so unbothered? Why aren't they protesting about this crisis? Why aren't people walking out of Parliament, stalling discussions, or threatening to cease cooperation as a result of the state of affairs in the education system?

I know whenever this topic comes up, we hasten to make mention of parents and shift the blame to them. We have to rethink this notion of parental involvement in a child's education. I agree that they have a role to play but the role of the educator can't be outsourced to the parent and the role of the parent can't be outsourced to the educator.

We have to determine what exactly is the role we want parents to play. We have to be mindful of the situation facing many families and how difficult it is for some parents to be involved in a child's education to the extent we think they should. Importantly, if the school is ill equipped, syllabus isn't being completed in class time, frequent interruptions because of violence, teacher lacks capacity, parents can't remedy that. Can they?

How can we grow and develop if the vast majority of students continue to leave school unqualified? If we have to spend so much on second-chance school each year? If only 54 per cent of students who sit the sciences can pass them?

What does this mean for the future of our country if 25 per cent of students can pass the required subjects? With the state of affairs, we will always have a market for low-paying jobs in hotels and BPOs to boast about FDI.

As Imani Duncan-Price said, "It's about time we wake up and really change the system. It not only limits the possibilities for the individual children, but it also limits the country's growth, so we stay poor and have an ineffective system ... . Bold change needed."

Let's demand action from our political leaders. Let's turn this ridiculously unjust education system on its head, so that all our children can benefit equally and be empowered to their fullest potential and realise their dreams.

- Jaevion Nelson is a human rights, economic and social justice advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com or tweet @jaevionn.