Petrina Francis, Staff Reporter
Newly installed president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), Ena Barclay, says bold initiatives should be undertaken to prevent schools from sliding into chaos and anarchy.
"The education system is experiencing one of the most challenging periods in its history," Mrs. Barclay said during her inaugural address at the third session of the JTA's 43rd annual conference, Monday night. "Our schools are experiencing some serious problems which must be of concern to everyone."
She noted that the 2006-2007 school year witnessed the highest level of indiscipline, ranging from the killing of students by their peers, violent acts against teachers, disrespect of authority and a high level of disregard for school rules and regulations, among other things.
"We need to create in our school a safe and secure environment where teachers can teach and learners can benefit from instruction," said Mrs. Barclay.
She noted that, for students to be successful, there must be a greater partnership between home and school, adding that parents must be aware of their responsibilities, and foster a nurturing environment at home to complement meaningful programmes at school.
Mrs. Barclay said the JTA's Early Childhood and Special Education Committee conducted a health fair in western Jamaica, and found that 50 per cent of the students were either having hearing or visual problems, or both, in some instances.
Of the 90 children who were screened for vision, 50 per cent required referral for treatment and, of the 71 children screened for hearing, 40 per cent had hearing impairment. These children were already in school.
She noted that teachers in the regular classrooms are not equipped to identify students with these problems, so they invariably fall through the crack and become failures or dropouts, or become disruptive.
Mrs. Barclay said the Ministry of Education and Youth needs to establish a unit for screening students, and should put in place the necessary interventions to help these students.
At Monday's ceremony, Doran Dixon, principal lecturer at the Mico University College, was installed as 2007/2008 president-elect of the JTA. He will take over the baton from Mrs. Barclay when her term expires next August.