By Ruel B. Reid
JAMAICA COLLEGE (JC) is one of the oldest high schools in Jamaica. The institution is now a Trust school again, as was the original wish of our benefactor Charles Drax. Most of these early schools were formed and led by Christian men. Archdeacon Simms was one of our early principals at JC. My alma mater Munro College has also followed this strong Christian tradition. One of my mentors was my past principal at Munro College, Richard B. Roper (a JC Old Boy), who has had a strong and lasting influence on my life.
The early Christian missionaries such as the Baptists, Moravians, Anglican, Catholics led the way in establishing schools in Jamaica, long before government support. So schools in Jamaica do have a strong Christian heritage.
Equally, Jamaica has the most churches per square mile and over two million of the 2.7 million population say they believe in Christianity. We also call our country a Christian one. If the fundamental teaching of Christ to love our neighbours as ourselves is practised, then we would have a more peaceful and prosperous Jamaica. This is the view we hold at JC and seek to influence our students in righteousness, peace, love and productivity. We are pleased with the progress we have been making at JC since 2006, since we have re-established ourselves as a Christian school.
Our school prayer says, "Bless our Lord this college, create among us a spirit of loyalty and comradeship to one another, when we are called to obey, let us obey with willingness, when we are called to serve, let us serve with gladness, when we are called to rule, let us rule with justice. Drive away from us all ignorance and harness of heart, all things dishonourable and unclean, and build us up in body, mind and spirit until we come to that full statute of the perfect man, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen." We strive to achieve this vision daily at JC.
Established on christianity
It must be noted that the education system has been established on the foundations of Christianity and reflected in the Education Act 1980. Section 3 (e) requires the minister of education to "contribute toward the spiritual, moral, mental and physical development of the community by securing that efficient education that shall be available to meet the needs of the island"
Furthermore, section 18.4 says that corporate worship in schools is not only lawful but is part of the schoolday. " … Subject to the provisions of this section, the schoolday in every public educational institution shall include time for collective worship on the part of all students in attendance at the institution, and the arrangements made therefor shall provide for a single act of worship attended by all such students unless, in the opinion of the board of management, the premises of the institution are such as to make it impractical to assemble students for such purpose". Section 18 (5) also provides for freedom of conscience; so if parents do not want their students to participate in religious activities, they are to communicate this in writing to the school authorities and they shall be granted exclusion. I have no problem with religious freedom and respecting the constitutional rights of everyone.
However, until we rule to secularise all our institutions, our schools will continue to make Christianity our moral compass, " … If we stand for nothing, we fall for anything".
Ruel Reid is principal of Jamaica College. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org