Admirable plan to upgrade failing schools
A recent report from the Ministry of Education suggests that there is a planned "strategic empowerment project designed to help poor-performing upgraded high schools do a better job of preparing their charges for the world of work".
An editorial from The Gleaner suggested that "strong" schools would partner with "weak" schools in practical ways such as sharing facilities, staff, and learning opportunities, as well as coaching and mentoring.
What an excellent suggestion! Recently, I had the privilege of going to Foga Road High School in Clarendon to address staff, parents, and children about the importance of pre-participation physical evaluation of all students who are selected to represent their school in athletic competition under the auspices of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA). I was impressed.
I reached the school just as classes were over for the day and the children were walking from the school to the main road. Children were walking in small groups, in a visibly orderly manner, talking, laughing, well dressed, no shirt out of pants or pants waist below the buttocks of the boys, and very important, no running!
In the schoolyard, I saw no child in uniform playing games, or running around aimlessly. The school itself was immaculate. There was no trash or waste products lying around. The corridors inside the school were spotless with many notices reminding students of the school motto and what the school authorities expected of the children. All theses notices were in English AND Spanish!
In the presentation, students and staff were reminded of the role of sports in the education of our youth. Sports are an important adjunct of education where children are taught how to cooperate with each other to achieve a common goal, as well as the importance of obeying the rules of the particular sport and respecting the decisions of officials.
It was stressed that while winning is the aim of organised sports in schools, it is not the "be all and end all" of sports.
Having been exposed first hand to "life" at Foga Road High School, I am suggesting that this school (one of the STRONG schools) be partnered with a WEAK "name brand" school that seems to be unbeatable at sports (having "recruited" the best athletes from other schools), but whose students consistently rank way down the "pecking order" of schools rated by independent rating agencies, and whose students, on leaving school, seem to find themselves as guests of the Government's penal institutions.
As The Gleaner editorial reported: "There is urgency to find solutions to the factors that cause underperformance in our schools. We cannot continue to fail the next generation."
There are pockets of excellence in our schools. Let us identify them and encourage those Jamaicans who are the architects of this excellence to assist in a tangible way those who are the architects of "failing" schools.
In the meantime, our Sunshine Girls have once again demonstrated that they are easily one of the top two countries in the world of netball. Their "sometimes-third-most-times-fourth" moniker is definitely not a true reflection of their talent and skill. With proper guidance re tactics and mental fortitude, the Girls can be number one.
The expertise, as we have seen at Foga Road High, is here among us in Jamaica! Let us recognise our own and stop looking abroad for help that to date, has not yet come. Is Winston Nevers available? Go Girls!
The Wright View - Dr Paul Wright