Esther Tyson, Contributor
There are three issues that I will be commenting on in this article. First, the response to Anne Shirley's article in Sports Illustrated about her concerns with the Jamaica Anti-Doping Commission's testing of our athletes; second, the state of the teaching profession in Jamaica; and third, the homosexual lobby.
The basis of my knowledge of Anne Shirley has been what I have seen of her as a public figure making contributions to the development of Jamaica. Therefore, when the media released the information that Ms Shirley had written an article about Jamaica's anti-doping procedures, I thought that it probably had to be published in the Sports Illustrated because she possibly could not get the powers to be to listen in Jamaica. Alas, how true it is that we tend to respond to pressure from the international community more readily than we do to our own.
There was, however, a maelstrom that erupted over Ms Shirley's revelation. At first, it seems that no one was paying attention to the message but was intent on shooting the messenger. Persons declared that Ms Shirley was a traitor. Another person said she should be tried for treason! Really! The questions I thought we should have been asking are: Was what she said true? Why did she publish those facts in an overseas magazine?
These questions came later after Shirley, who has been giving of her time and talent to develop our nation, had been lambasted and her reputation buffeted by some, including a commentator who accused her of "eating sour grapes".
After all the character assassination, the message is finally being looked at and we are aware that there are serious issues to be addressed at JADCO. The organisation is now being better resourced and a more diligent approach is being taken to the testing of the athletes. Aren't these the issues that Ms Shirley addressed? Yes, she did it in a way that exposed our problems at home, but it worked, didn't it? The authorities are now seeking to address the problems.
We need, as a people, to be less ready to destroy our own before assessing carefully the message they are trying to send us. We need to value their contributions to our society and place that as the context of our responses to what we perceive to be their negative action or utterances.
Types of Teachers
I am a member of the teaching profession. I have had the privilege of going into various schools across Jamaica, and I have discovered teachers who are making great sacrifices to develop the minds of our children in this country. Even in schools where there are problems with the teaching practices of many teachers, I have seen pockets of excellence.
There are teachers who are more than qualified to be deemed master teachers. On the other hand, I am concerned about the number of our teachers who do not have an insatiable appetite for learning, who are satisfied to have qualified themselves with a first degree and teacher qualification and see that as being enough.
The advancement in technology has made knowledge so available to us in the field of education. There are many sources of information online where teachers can find out more about teaching methodologies and classroom management. The matter of differentiation in teaching is an approach to teaching that is being researched constantly. This is needed in our Jamaican classrooms. Yet many teachers see the suggestion that they develop themselves in this way as being simply more work.
We are willing to be scramble to get some of the scarce resources the Government has and are so desperate about it that we descend to base actions in order to ensure we get our share. It probably was this mentality that inspired our teachers to elect, once again, the former JTA president who demeaned the profession by his unprofessional conduct to the minister of education. This former president of the JTA later confirmed that we were not misjudging him when he re-enacted his appalling conduct at a recent JTA conference.
It is an indictment on the teaching profession that someone who is rude, obdurate and intransigent and who displays an inability to take a conciliatory approach in the impasse with the minister of education could have been chosen to lead the JTA again. This speaks to a lack of understanding on the part of the teachers of the era in which we are operating, and the urgent changes that need to happen in the education sector.
I want to say to my colleagues that it is time that we start seeing education as the hope of Jamaica's children. It is time that we realise that we are capable of impacting the future of this nation by putting the development of our children first.
We need to look globally at the trends in education and the economy. The possibility of open schools, or schools without borders, is becoming a reality. It is a reality that will not need so many teachers. We cannot continue to have schools where the ratio of teacher to student is 1:4. It is not viable.
The Ministry of Education needs to operate efficiently if we are to develop our education system. The ministry needs to be able to transfer teachers where it has proven necessary to do so. We must acknowledge that there must be a paradigm shift in how we need to operate in the education system. We must change to make us sustainable. If we do not do this, we will not develop, but will atrophy and become useless.
Therefore, we must understand that there are other possibilities that exist to educate our children with fewer teachers.
Homosexual lobby's intent
I need to point out that on February 5, 2012, I wrote an article in The Sunday Gleaner pointing out the impending danger of the homosexual lobby's intent worldwide: to have their rights become not equal to heterosexuals' but paramount, thereby marginalising religious bodies and effectively silencing them in the public sphere.
After one year, this is even more evident. As we debate and lobby our Government in Jamaica concerning this issue, we need to be clear on what the outcomes will bring for persons who believe that the homosexual lifestyle is wrong. It will eventually be a gag order. This is what is happening in Canada, in England, and, increasingly many states in the USA.
I abhor the murder of any person in Jamaica, and the killing of a transsexual is testimony to our increasing acceptance of violence as the solution to any conflict. I am, however, alarmed at the number of women who are being murdered by our men. Where is the outcry for all these women whose lives are being destroyed at a greater rate than any other group of persons in Jamaica? Why isn't it being equally highlighted in the national and international media?
The problem then is that we must address the murder rate in our nation. That is the bigger concern.
Esther Tyson is an educator. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.