Sun | Dec 4, 2016

Hope for improved family life in 2015

Published:Sunday | January 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM
Asticot Thompson and grandson Jonathon Thompson having a family moment at Devon House in St Andrew.

Esther Tyson

Last year was one of difficulties, globally and nationally: The Ebola crisis; the ISIS spread, the disappearance of two airlines in Malaysian airspace; the sinking of the ferry in South Korea. Nationally, the chik-V virus that has negatively impacted the health of many and complicated existing health issues, in some cases resulting in death; the impact of International Monetary Fund (IMF) on our standard of living, rising prices and dwindling income.

In the midst of all of this seeming doom and gloom, we must hold on to hope. Hope that as a nation, we will reach a new level of understanding of who we are as a people and in spite of being the third most murderous country on earth, we will begin to have a new appreciation of life and the value of life. There are glimmers of hope with the reduction in the murder rate for 2014, the passing of the IMF tests, and hopefully, finding out the truth about the Tivoli killings.

I, however, cannot overemphasise how much we need to refocus our attention as a nation on building our family life. Mahatma Ghandi is said to have uttered the following: There is no school equal to a decent home and no teacher equal to a virtuous parent.

The family is the building block of the nation. Where we have crippled and fractured family units, we are going to have an equally fractured society. This is what is happening in Jamaica today. So many academic pundits and opinion leaders are quick to say that we have to accept the fact that Jamaica does not have a nuclear family structure. The point is, the nuclear family is the ideal and we must continue to strive for the ideal. Why? Because the research has shown that children reared in a stable family structure develop best into rounded individuals who form healthy relationships and help to build a stable society. The converse is true children who are not raised in a stable family setting but who have been neglected and abused are more likely to become sociopaths and display anti-social behaviour.

Nuclear family

We, therefore, need to find the ways and means to encourage our nation to go back to seeing the nuclear family as the ideal. I have been quite heartened to see various corporate companies airing advertisements that promote strong family values. These ads include Jamaica Nationals ad about the son seeking to look after his ailing mother and how the family came together to help; the Singer ad; the NCB Omni ad; and the Digicel Christmas ad.

This Digicel ad was quite a relief from that other hyped-up pseudo-cosmopolitan ad that had become quite nauseating in its frequency.

As a nation, we need to find ways to generate income. We need to encourage entrepreneurship among the young. The financial agencies need to create innovative ways of helping persons with viable ideas to bring them to fruition. They will be creating jobs for themselves and others and, thereby generating income in the society.

The latest Bamboo initiative is such an example. I look forward to tasting that Bamboo Ketchup. There are too many young people who have left tertiary institutions and are unable to find a job. This situation is very demotivating for students who are currently in high school and who are being told that they need to earn good grades in their CXCs to get into university. This has no impact on them as they will tell you that they know many graduates who are now indebted to the Students Loan Bureau, but have no source of income to repay the loan.

This leads me to the matter of the society and the government expecting that all students in secondary schools are to gain five or more CSEC subjects at the end of grade eleven. This is the same as saying that we are going to achieve the goals of Vision 2030. This is not going to happen. Certainly, not in the state we are now. When we have students who are coming to high school not being able to read at their grade level, who are mentally disturbed, emotionally troubled, physically and sexually abused, who are undernourished, hungry, are we really expecting them to produce those five CSEC subjects at the end of grade eleven? We need to start seriously addressing these issues that originate in the homes and communities before we can expect to fulfill Vision 2030.

The ministry which is responsible for education should realise that we need to address the problem of poor family life on a short-term, medium-term and a long-term level. In the short-term, we need to put in place a complete and thorough assessment of the students throughout high school. This assessment should include their cognitive, social and emotional levels. This needs to be done throughout all the schools. Currently, some schools do this but the parents have to find the money to pay for the assessments.

Basic provisions

Many parents in Jamaica do not have the resources to give their children lunch money or bus fare much less to pay for this assessment. The schools then need to be provided with the human resources to deal with the outcomes of this assessment. This would include social workers, psychologists and special educators. At present, many teachers are overwhelmed at having to play all these roles for which they are not trained or equipped.

The medium-term intervention is to have aids going into the homes where there are children at the pre-school and early-childhood level to teach and assist parents how to rear their children.

In the long term, the nation must begin to promote positive and strong family life. All partners in the society such as the private sector, the musicians, DJs, the dramatists, the media, health sector, the Church and the education sector must come together to bring about this change.

Here's to positive growth in Jamaica for 2015!

Esther Tyson is an educator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.