Ronald Thwaites | Tell mi is lie mi a tell
Absent schooling and present hunger are the plagues afflicting two-thirds of the Jamaican people right now. Tell mi is lie mi a tell.
Last week a horrid and dangerous consensus was finally admitted. It isn’t 120,000: it isn’t even 200,000 of our hopeful and hungry young people who, either wholly or in large measure, have lost all or fallen back disastrously, in their social and academic advancement. The number is more likely double – despite all the heroic efforts, alongside the cruel denial of reality by many of us who should know better and do better.
I’m drawing this analysis from the statements of the minister, the Opposition spokesperson, the teachers’ associations of Jamaica and the Caribbean, as well as the association of principals and vice-principals and the organisation of private schools.
The Churches, who own or sponsor almost half of the nation’s educational establishments, the Patterson commission on transformation and the combined parents’ associations, are yet to speak publicly despite the fact that what is happening, and more so what is not happening, affects their interests so drastically. Why? A coward dem coward?
Meanwhile, the children are on the streets or cooped up in the yards playing video games or making babies and feeding on cheese snacks and bag juice. Even as we get vex about the one of many little boys who is so honest, misguided and miseducated as to state seh is gunman im want to turn.
As expected, the teachers have given Fayval and us a big slap by telling us that they nah wuk this summer cause dem yeye tyad from the year on the screen. So much for any hope of make-up classes to even try to catch up. Yout wid gunman ambition stay deh pon street.. no school fi you yet.! See how serious we are!
The prime minister himself is having to talk cautiously about resumption of face-to-face classes in September, because even if, blessed assurance, COVID-19 eases off by then, only about 20 per cent of teachers have vaccinated so far and August blitz or not, he knows that large numbers of them are unlikely to take the jab but will object to returning, continue to expect to be fully paid, regardless of efficiency, not to mention productivity.
The pandemic is a threat to health as well as a pretext for selfishness. Tell mi is lie mi a tell!
Ancillary workers in some schools, despite being cushioned for some time, are now beginning to demand redundancy since the lay-off has been so long, but of course, fully expecting to have back their jobs when classes resume. So, who will pay? The ministry – fahget it!. The threadbare schools, the parents who, from Ruel Reid’s days, have been told they don’t have to contribute?
ADDRESS THE CRISIS
The purpose of coming back to this subject again and again and pointing out the developing crisis is not to blame anyone or score any political points, but to plead for us to boldly confront the unfolding and escalating education crisis, and to unite to mitigate and avert its worse human and national consequences. The catastrophe in education, training, personality formation and nutrition is being recklessly understated and underestimated.
Think this through with me. Candidates are telling us, parents are begging a bly, educators are disclaiming responsibility about unreadiness for the nearby CXC exams. So what are these tests really going to prove and where will the results place a generation of our young people on the ladder of international competence?
With very limited current objective assessment, on what credible basis is the assignment of high value and even more highly emotional high school places going to be determined in the next two months? And if we wanted a signpost, just look at what, in desperation, is happening to the already hapless grade-nine students, the most vulnerable, who, without testing, are about to be stuffed into any nearby school place. Can that be equity or does that deepen inequality?
THE BEST WE CAN DO?
Is this the best we can do for God’s pickney dem as we preen pon Facebook?
As is likely, everyone in September will want their child to be promoted and to go to a name-brand school. What are the comprehensive plans for emotional healing, for academic assessment and remediation? More extra lessons again? Is there even the capacity let alone the will- the talent and the resources available to cope with the scope of need?
None of this is apparent yet. All this while some members of the Public Accounts Committee, short of the graciousness to apologise for their buffoonish, guilty-faced attack on Mrs Munro-Ellis, instead, last week doubled-down on their nastiness and showed us again in full green colour what tribalism and mis-education produces at the highest levels.
Yet no reported concern or word from them about the dormant school feeding programme or a resolve to put something more on the one ‘bills’ a day which is supposed to feed each of the nearly 300,000 PATH students while patty gone to $200.
No wonder, now that the lines have appeared again in front of the US Embassy, look who you see: all young people, the educated ones, most giving up on Ja, tired of the foolishness described above.
Again, it will take a truly national resolve for things to get better. No one political tendency can alleviate the crises at hand. Neither Andrew or Mark, separately, can deal with the under-productivity of our teaching and learning apparatus.
The Churches must act decisively regarding standards, nutrition, attendance, discipline in their schools instead of anxiously waiting on Heroes Circle to prescribe. Parents have to rise up against the injustice being done to their children. It can fix. It haffi fix!
Is lie mi a tell?
Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to email@example.com.