Tue | Mar 28, 2023

Dr Lascelve Graham | Crisis! Leadership needed!

Published:Thursday | February 9, 2023 | 12:21 AM
Our leaders need to make the necessary investment and changes required to deliver quality education/socialisation, values, attitudes, skills to our youth through our schools, over which they have full control.
Our leaders need to make the necessary investment and changes required to deliver quality education/socialisation, values, attitudes, skills to our youth through our schools, over which they have full control.
Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham
Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham

Jamaica is experiencing a crisis of leadership. Our problems in crime and violence, crudity and indiscipline, education and socialisation are the logical consequences of poor, weak leadership at the political and other levels. Our leaders lack the courage and revolutionary mindset necessary to undertake the fundamental changes required to forgo or minimise the above.

The task is indeed not an easy one, because the source of the challenges, the root of the problem, goes all the way back to the slavery/plantation society from which we originate, with its inequities, harshness, lack of opportunities for the majority of the society and other social ills. Hence, the problems cannot be fixed by maintaining the status quo. It cannot be business as usual. The boat must be rocked; and that is a very difficult thing to do indeed, since it means, among other things, upsetting friends, resisting peer pressure, swimming upstream, going against the tide of vested interests.

It requires leadership with the best interests of the great majority of the populace at heart; the intellect, the vision, the strategy, the courage to take on great odds; the ability to energise a critical mass of followers; and the expertise to implement the necessary changes. Additionally, one must not alarm Big Brother, who is always looking over your shoulder. The above undertaking cries out for nothing less than the revolutionary mindset and skills of great leadership. Not readily available at all.

It means, among other things, tackling frontally the education/socialisation, housing and land reform challenges, and the corruption that have plagued us and have always been with us.

In our schools, major socialising agents of society, where children should be awash with, steeped in, pro-social values, attitudes and skills, we see with regularity girls fighting each other; boys fighting; student-teacher, parent-teacher violence; even students murdering other students. This is happening at the very heart and soul, the root, the foundation of our socialising system.

It must be clear by now to even the dumbest, most blind, socially unconscious of our leaders that fundamental changes need to be made to education/socialisation in Jamaica if we are to overcome the crisis in which we are now mired with respect to crime, violence, indiscipline, etc. We must deliver quality education/socialisation to the great majority of our children, through our specialised public education/socialising institutions (schools) at least up to the secondary level.

In education, we have had commissions and copious research done. Our educators, through the years, have also visited several countries which have made paradigm shifts in education, moving from the bottom to the top of the pile. Hence, our leaders know what is required to have a more efficient and effective education/socialisation system. They just lack the courage and the will to make the necessary investment, and to undertake the comprehensive and strategic social campaign concomitant with getting people to understand, think differently about our priorities, and the sacrifices we need to make to achieve them. Our leaders must realign our priorities.


For example, they must make the people understand that our public, specialised educational institutions – our schools – are NOT sports academies nor clubs; that academic, technical, vocational areas and socialisation take precedence over winning at sports in school; that sports has an important but secondary socialising role IN SCHOOL and is a socialising tool there to help ALL students, whether nerd or sports star, who legitimately qualify to be at the school by way of the publicly declared academic protocol. Our people must understand that bringing in children to our schools based on how fast they run or their football skills is NOT in the best interest of poor people or Jamaica! It is, in fact a corruption of our education/socialisation system, which weakens it.

Our leaders need to take the necessary steps of retraining and raising the status and remuneration of teachers. Our leaders need to implement the other changes identified by the experts for ages and stop faking surprise and regret at having to import skilled workers, for example!

Two of society’s major socialising agents – the family and the school – are dysfunctional in Jamaica. In such a situation, and with the severe inequalities which exist, how can one reasonably expect that we would have anything less than the scenario we are now experiencing? Jamaica is ranked second in the world, per 100,000 persons, with respect to murders!

If our leaders are serious about making changes that will positively affect, in a significant way, the lives of the great majority of our people, then they must start tackling the fundamental problems that confront us. They need to stop making changes at the fringes which are palliative – more form than substance – and don’t nip in the bud with any sustainability the outcomes we are trying to prevent. For example, the prime minister has lamented the fact that we don’t have a mandatory National Youth Service (NYS) for unattached youth. Whereas this has some benefits, if steps are not taken earlier at the family or school level (from early childhood), there will continue to be a lot of candidates, the unattached youth, for the mandatory NYS, crime, etc. The NYS, as envisioned, represents remedial work which should have been done the first time by our specialised public education/socialisation institutions and/or our families.

Fixing the family is a long-term project. Fixing the school is a short- to medium-term project which can start NOW. Our schools have a network throughout the country. They essentially reach all our children. They are the main pillars of education/socialisation. Our leaders need to make the necessary investment and changes required to deliver quality education/socialisation, values, attitudes, skills to our youth through our schools, over which they have full control.

Our leaders also have to get serious about housing and land reform, as well as corruption in Jamaica. These are problems, again, that have haunted us from slavery days. Nobody is living on gully banks because he/she wants to. Squatting is not a problem we will be able to wish away. Our leaders need to tackle corruption from the top and start locking up the big fish instead of the little ‘fryers’. Singapore has clearly shown how effective this is.

More people are becoming frustrated, disheartened, cynical and more open to the suggestion that the system needs to be changed. A number are voicing the opinion that only a violent revolution will bring about the fundamental, disruptive changes necessary to improve the lives of the great majority of Jamaicans. Is this really so? Will the powers that be not allow good sense to prevail?

Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham is a former captain of the Jamaica senior football team. Send feedback to comments@gleanerjm.com