Lascelve Graham, GUEST COLUMNIST
I agree with Mr Reginald Budhan's Sunday Gleaner article ('Failed State or failed homes?', October 20, 2013) where he laments Jamaica's low level of education reflected in its low and declining labour productivity, over the past 30 years, compared to the increasing labour productivity of our trading partners.
Budhan's conclusion that proper socialisation of our children is a fundamental game-changer for their academic success and Jamaica's future is spot on. He stated that today, countries do not compete based on the muscle of their people or natural-resource endowment but on the basis of the development of the brains of their people through intensive education and training.
He went on to state: "It is the quality of socialisation of children in civil values ... that will determine success in the academics. Since the homes have failed in the proper socialisation of children, and all children must go through the school system, by default, the school must assume the responsibility of socialisation of children in civil values of respect, honesty, discipline, hard work, obedience, etc. This is the most basic form of education."
Fixing the home is a long-term process. Therefore, in the short to medium term, our schools must take up the socialisation slack left by the family. The problem is that although some teachers and schools are trying their best in the face of difficulties, including student and parent indiscipline, too many of our schools are not addressing the problem holistically. They have essentially abrogated this responsibility.
One of the greatest resources for socialisation of our children is sports. The mission of sports in our educational setting has been largely distorted, deflected, twisted, warped. It is as if sports has lost its navigational tools, its compass in high school. Hence, the interscholastic victories are oftentimes pyrrhic, with our children and our society paying a tremendous cost for same.
The result is that the learning of pro-social values and attitudes at school leaves a lot to be desired and our children are left out in the cold to fend for themselves.
One of the symptoms of said skewed priorities is how our high schools treat with sports. Sport in high school has been professionalised and highly commercialised, where winning is the end and the importation/recruiting of youngsters based on their sports ability, the means to this end - win-at-all-costs.
The competitions are exceedingly intense and tribal and the schools are used as if the they are developmental arms of the various sports associations. Recently, an article in the Observer extolled the academic brilliance of a poor Seaforth High School student who excelled in the face of tremendous hardships, including hunger and having to walk miles to and from school.
He disclosed that he really wanted to attend Morant Bay High, but because of some challenge with his birth certificate, he was not allowed so to do. I submit that had he been a star runner or 'baller', he might have achieved attending his dream school.
If our schools and society saw the socialisation of our youth as important, sports in our schools would be used as the developmental tool it is supposed to be and all students who qualify, academically, would be acknowledged.
Mr Budhan pointed out that "the vast majority of children who excel academically come from homes where the parents place a high value on education". If our society is going to move forward economically, education must be the story Jamaica tells about itself. It must be the overwhelming theme Jamaicans recite.
Iinstil pro-social Values
If our country is serious about development, it must instil pro-social values and attitudes in our children, and it must recognise and address the shortfalls of our families not by ignoring bad practices in schools and by speeches and conferences, but by giving our schools more direction and more resources, e.g. social coaches who will help to refocus our schools on one of their most important goals - helping to inculcate appropriate values, attitudes and life skills.
Reginald Budhan is right. By default, the school must assume more of the responsibility of socialising our children in civil values. Too many of our schools have dropped the ball. Let's help them to pick it up by insisting that they do the right thing.
Tribalism and unmanaged conflict lead to violence. Proper socialisation fosters learning, improved emotional intelligence, and conflict resolution. Sports can be a very powerful tool in schools' arsenal and in our quest for proper socialisation. It can help us to develop seamlessly from dependence to independence to interdependence. Let us unleash the full potential and power of sports as a transformational device.
Dr Lascelve 'Muggy' Graham is a chemist and former Jamaica football captain. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.