Fri | Sep 21, 2018

The family, our children - help!

Published:Sunday | June 7, 2015 | 12:00 AMEsther Tyson, Contributor

The family is the basic unit of society. Our family structure has suffered repeated blows to its stability: from our foreparents being forced to leave their families in Africa to being chattels of slave masters without control over their own destiny, to being sold to different slave owners without regard for family connections, to our men being used as studs to impregnate women to produce slave children without connection to their fathers, to being freed from slavery without the resources to build a stable economic foundation.

Then to being chained in the mental slavery of our minds following the patterns embedded in our national psyche, men continuing to operate as studs and women enabling them. The family needs to be rebuilt in our society.

The family provides for the young a place of nurturing, safety and security. It is where parents should guide the young, having had the benefit of learning from experience and exposure to knowledge about the importance of family. Unfortunately, an even further breakdown has occurred in the family structure when, because of economic pressure, many parents, mothers in particular, chose to go abroad to work and leave their children in the charge of granny or some other relative. The phenomenon of the 'barrel children' in Jamaica is well known and does not need to be rehearsed.

As educators, we are aware that many grannies do not have the health or energy to parent young children. Many of the children are, therefore, left on their own, to bring themselves up. Furthermore, there are a number of our young people who are living by themselves. They might get money from their mothers abroad to pay the bills and buy food, but they are without guidance and training from a responsible adult.

When we understand that many of our children are bringing up themselves guided by what they see on TV or the Internet, we understand that the next generation is at threat of being even more wayward than the present.


feedback from educators


We are hearing more and more feedback from educators lamenting the behaviour of the students in the schools. The younger year groups coming in are even more undisciplined than the older ones. With the onset of puberty and with no guidance as to how to control their newly developed sex urges, a number of these 12- and 13-year-old girls engage in unbridled sexual behaviour with boys in an attempt to be popular, receive love and acceptance, and satisfy raw desire.

The matter of the emotional trauma that this type of behaviour will produce for them is not in their minds; the possibility of developing STIs, among other things, is far away from their thinking. These 'orphan' children living without parents or parental guidance are added to those who are being pimped out by their parents.

The disrespect, lack of self-control, fighting and unbridled sexual behaviour that our students are displaying in many schools in Jamaica are causing high levels of stress for many teachers. The situation is becoming so dire that the Government needs to do a realistic assessment of the situation. Social workers and clinical psychologists need to be allocated to the schools to address these behavioural issues.

Whereas a teacher can address non-submission of homework on time, talking out of turn, and minor infractions in the classroom, schools should have specially trained professionals to whom they can refer children who have serious behavioural issues.

The deans of discipline, many times, are not trained to analyse and address these behaviours. The guidance counsellors are overwhelmed and are only trained to deal with these behaviours to a certain level. They, too, need to have social workers that will engage with the students in their homes and communities to address the issues that originate from these sources.

The guidance counsellors are tasked with doing group counselling classes and many times do not have enough time to advise the children on a one-to-one basis. They need to have clinical psychologists to whom they can refer students with serious issues.

Our teachers are being required not only to teach but also to parent. This situation has to be addressed. The cultural issues that breed the errant, maladaptive behaviours in our children need to be a focus of our government, civil-society groups and the Church. Our family structure must be rebuilt and strengthened if we are going to progress as a nation.

We have read and heard repeatedly the statistics related to the outcomes of children who grow up without a father; even more those who do not have a stable family support system. We have heard this and it seems as if we expect that in Jamaica our situation will be different that the outcomes will be different.

Look at the students who are doing well in school. Most of them come from stable family backgrounds. Those who are from single-parent homes have mothers who sacrifice for them and ensure that they are properly monitored and that a male figure is in their lives to provide help for them.

We, therefore, need to take the necessary actions to rebuild the family structure in our nation. We need to put in place required parenting sessions for mothers and fathers who go to the prenatal clinics for care. We need to expand the practice of sending home assistants into homes to teach parents how to nurture the little ones.

It is not now an optional matter; it is mandatory if we are to save our nation.

- Esther Tyson is an educator. Email feedback to and