Wed | Oct 21, 2020

Knotty issue of rules and freedoms

Published:Monday | August 10, 2020 | 12:14 AM


In a previous professional life, more than 15 years ago, I was presented with a case regarding religious liberty at a Catholic institution when Jehovah’s Witness parents demanded that their daughter be excused from attending all devotional exercises.

I was resolute that she must be in attendance, but was under no obligations to participate in the various rituals. Whilst they cited indoctrination, I responded by stating that I attended said institution as a student and was now employed for several years. The decision stood, even after several trips to the Ministry of Education. The parents said they knew the ethos of the institution before selecting it as a school of choice.

Now fast-forward to the present – the mandate is not mine to condemn or condone the actions of the school administrators at Kensington Primary or the Virgos’, but to examine the issue from both standpoints as best as possible.

One of the objectives of all educational institutions is to create favourable learning opportunities, but in a controlled and orderly environment. In the same breath, conscious parents will always seek out the best educational opportunities for their children. This clearly is the case with the parents of ZV. I am certain that they would have conducted their research before selecting a school for their daughter.

Kensington Primary, in all probability, created said rule because of past experiences, even though the issue of hygiene seems to be a weak one, in my estimation. The child in question is not a Rastafarian, but sports ‘sister locks’, which is merely for aesthetic purposes. The issue is not a religious one, but of personal preferences – rights and freedoms, if you may.

Whilst rights and freedoms cannot be ignored, neither can be the rules. They are important, and usually they are crafted after much thought, consultations and experiences. Chaos would reign supreme in any home, organisation or country without rules. School administrators and their stakeholders do not create rules to engender malice or dissension, but to uphold or exceed established standards.

Persons have been voicing their opinions, informed or otherwise, especially about stifling our African heritage. Forgive my cynicism, but for many Jamaicans, our

Afrocentrism is a convenient one. We use it as an excuse after we have embraced the European and North American skin and hair products.

Our students are revered in many countries for their discipline, and their excellence in achieving academically. This is as a result of the foundation that they were afforded in the so-called Third-World education system, which we need to repair, not demolish.

As policymakers, we need to be extremely careful, and not be too hasty in referencing other countries’ practices or norms.

This really is much ado about very little.


Principal of George Headley

Primary School