Gareth Davis, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Ill-mannered and unkempt children, inadequately prepared for learning, along with 'don't care' parents are nullifying the efforts of teachers to lift the standard of education in at least one rural school.
Apparently unconcerned about the education of their children, some parents are making it difficult for the teachers and administrators at the Port Antonio Primary School in Portland to get the students to learn.
Principal Leonie McDonald says efforts to get some parents involved in the education of their children and to help reduce the level of indiscipline at the school have been rebuffed by these mothers and fathers who seem not to care.
According to McDonald, many of these parents are not fully aware of the importance of education.
"I have seized cellphones and other gadgets from students, which contain X-rated images and when the parents are summoned their response is, 'a dis yuh call mi fah'," McDonald told The Sunday Gleaner.
"We have had situations where children come to school at the start of a new school year without books, pencils and bags.
"It is worrying to see girls turning up for school without their hair combed, and dirty, among other things. These are some of the situations that my teachers and guidance counsellors have to deal with," added McDonald.
He said the school is then left on its own to deal with the problems, many of which are caused by the socio-economic conditions these children live in.
With many of the students coming from some of the volatile and depressed communities in east Portland including Prospect, Breast Work, Hall's Avenue, Janga Gully, and Chilly Lane, McDonald and her team have introduced special counselling sessions to reduce the indiscipline and level of hostility displayed by some.
According to McDonald, in some instances, when parents are made aware of the problems and misbehaviour by their children, the response is frightening.
"Them lucky more than me," is one response McDonald said the administrators at the school have heard from parents whose children are at risk.
Negligence & irresponsibility
With a student population of more than 1,000 and with only two guidance counsellors, one for each shift, and with social unrest among some students increasing, McDonald is convinced that the negligence and irresponsibility on the part of some parents and guardians are the main factors leading to the misbehaviour of some students.
McDonald argued that unless the social background of some students is assessed and investigated, many will pass through the system as failures.
"We have engaged them in frequent and rigorous guidance counselling. Along with that, students who continue to display high levels of anti-social behaviour are sent to a child psychologist in the parish."
Other students are referred to, and receive sessions, from the Child Development Agency representative, along with the community safety and security personnel of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in Port Antonio.
"There has been improvement on the part of some students, but unless the Ministry of Education takes a closer look at the socio-economic background of students, then the problem of attitude, indiscipline, and violence will continue in schools," said McDonald.
"However, we are committed to teach and to ensure that student are properly groomed and are given every opportunity to learn," added McDonald, as she expressed pride in the performance of her teachers.