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Jamaica, you are the father

Published:Monday | December 30, 2013 | 12:00 AM

By Garth A. Rattray

We are all extremely proud of Tessanne Chin. She gave us the best Christmas gift ever. She outshone her competition, captivated her audience, and was able to express herself so that all of America understood her.

I'm certain that her ease with 'standard English' contributed to her success and endeared her to the hearts of the millions of international viewers of her numerous post-victory interviews. Yet, if some intellectuals (who already master standard English) have their way, the Jamaican dialect will be taught in schools and used to impart knowledge verbally, bibliographically and electronically. Can you imagine a future contestant from Jamaica struggling to be understood and mystifying the audience with phrases like, "Mi a go seh tenks to di people dem back a yaad"? Our dialect is already viable and will always have its place in communication, but, teaching or educating through dialect will further alienate and severely limit or restrict the very people the intellectuals say they are empowering and uplifting.

We proudly and readily laid claim to Tessanne as a daughter of Jamaica. We also lay claim to our elite athletes, exceptional academicians, musicians, entertainers, performing artistes, artisans and artists. But we never lay claim to our numerous criminals and murderers even though they are also our children. So, to borrow a phrase from Maury Povich (from the popular Maury Show) - (Jamaica)..."You are the father" (of those children).

products of this country

Good or bad, famous or infamous, popular or unpopular, saint or satanic ... they are all the products of this country. Although our bastardy laws were abolished (during the Michael Manley regime) with the Status of the Children Act of 1976, as a nation, we still treat our underprivileged like outcast bastards, pawns ... used for political gain but left to the circumstances of their social environment.

None of those children chose to be born to undereducated or uneducated parents. None of them wanted to grow up in abject poverty and without the social amenities that we all deserve in the 21st century. None of them wished to be socialised by aggression and violence as a way of life and as a way of communication.

None of them asked to feel hungry most of the time or to feel helpless, hopeless and futureless. None of these children of Jamaica began life aspiring towards becoming bloodthirsty murderers. Yet, several generations of them have ended up as pariahs within their communities and the entire Jamaican society. Our crime statistics bear grim evidence of our failure to accept our paternal, social and ethical responsibilities towards these children of Jamaica.

we have failed

We fail ourselves, our community, our country and God when we fail to ensure that all the children of Jamaica are nurtured in environments conducive to their (physical, psychological and spiritual) health and wholesome development.

The Ministry of Health's Child Health and Development 'Passport' (launched in 2010) is a wonderful tool for charting and assessing children's immunisation status, nutritional status, physical growth and mental development. It also includes parenting tips.

However, since the World Health Organisation states that, "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity", I would like to see a section of the Child Health and Development Passport that includes the children's social/environmental conditions - as assessed by social workers over time. I would also like to see the inclusion of mandatory 'good parenting' classes for parents/guardians. These passports should be examined periodically by a designated state agency and corrective action(s) taken.

Until we treat each and every child as if he/she is special and has the potential for greatness ... we are committing social suicide, dooming ourselves to social decline, crime, violence, poverty and the inability to develop as a country.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and