Letter of the Day | Fostering citizenship skills for sustainable development
THE EDITOR, Madam:
‘Tolerance, intercultural dialogue and respect for diversity are more essential than ever in a world where peoples are becoming more and more closely interconnected.’ – Kofi Annan
The lack of positive values in the Jamaican society is of grave concern. There is hardly any respect for person or property; intolerance is absent from our vocabulary.
Statistics from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) show that in 2017, 1,647 Jamaicans were murdered; 1,287 Jamaicans lost their lives due to homicide in 2018; in 2019, 1,339 Jamaicans were killed; and 1,323 Jamaicans were murdered in 2020. Given the lack of a hate crime bill, it is difficult to know what percentage of homicides committed are hate crimes.
Positive values and attitudes are not innate; they must be purposefully woven into the education system, as well as through other agents of socialisation, such as the Church. Unfortunately, fewer and fewer Jamaicans attend church, and as such the education system appears to be the medium by which the values we seek to inculcate must be achieved.
Many years ago, civics was taught in our schools and the affirmative values and attitudes which we are so desperately lacking had an avenue to be passed on to the next generation. However, some brilliant mind or minds saw it fit to remove this subject and civics is no longer taught in our schools.
The Jamaican society is woefully lacking citizenship skills. The British Council defines citizenship skills as developing active, globally aware citizens who have the skills, knowledge and motivation to address issues of human and environmental sustainability, and work towards a fairer world in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue; developing an understanding of what it means to be a citizen of their own country and their own country’s values.
SEVEN CITIZENSHIP SKILLS
The seven citizenship skills are: cooperation, fairness, patience, respect, strength, self-improvement, and balance. Cooperation involves thinking as a group; each member must realise that working together will achieve the common goal. Patience speaks to when it is best to wait and/or act and how much action one should take based on the specific circumstances. Fairness is the act of tempering individual desires within the needs of society as a whole. Respect speaks to accepting the differences in others. Strength is the willingness of citizens to stand up for what they believe in and to denounce what is wrong and admit when they have erred. Self-improvement is the desire for lifelong learning and to improve on your skills. Balance is the realisation that there is more than one side to every issue and to compromise when necessary.
Of course, we are all digital citizens. Digital citizenship can be defined as engaging in appropriate and responsible behaviour when using technology. We are all aware of cyberbullying. This negative online activity is as a result of poor citizenship skills. Too many of us go online with the same negative behaviour we have in our physical communities.
A concerted effort must be made for us to rekindle that once gentle society of a bygone time. As digital citizens, we must develop a spirit of discernment for others and express empathy to those in need of same. It is evident that citizenship skills are interdependent and are critical tools in making us better citizens.