Editorial

As the new school year opens...

Monday, September 04, 2017

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In popular Jamaican parlance, 'free paper bun' today, with children returning to school in their tens of thousands following the long summer holiday.

Even those without children to worry about will find themselves affected, if only because of the traffic jams as parents/guardians hustle to get the young ones to school and public transport operators play their part.

At times like these it is useful to consider the very young children entering the strange, new world called school for the first time.

On a day like this we can expect some things to go wrong. There will probably be the odd school without adequate furniture, with insufficient teachers, and so on and so forth. Hopefully, the Ministry of Education and individual schools will have done all they can to minimise such occurrences.

Sadly, there are communities torn by feuding gangs and other violent behaviour which has caused parents and guardians to be hesitant about sending off their children this morning.

Yesterday's Sunday Observer story about violence in east Kingston reminds us that many children from that section of the country will not be telling happy stories when they catch up with their friends today. Instead, many conversations will centred on horrifying reports of gun shots, death and fear.

Then there are those whose desperate economic circumstances mean fees being asked for by schools have not been paid. It is imperative that the message from the Government that no child should be held back from school or stopped at the school gate because of unpaid fees gets through to everyone, including parents, school leaders and school boards.

There are others, so impoverished, that the children are being held back because there is no money to buy shoes, uniforms and school books. In communities across Jamaica, urban and deep rural, there are those watching without hope as their age-group peers go off to school. They are among the people who never learn to read, despite being highly intelligent, ending up angry and resentful — easy pickings for criminal recruiters.

In such circumstances, it's not enough for neighbours to simply shake their heads, then say nothing and do nothing. Neighbours who are able must lend a hand to those needing help. Perhaps all that's needed is bus fare. Whatever it is, people have a responsibility to help other. It may be necessary to contact the Child Development Agency, in which case Jamaicans should not hesitate to do so. It may even be to refer a family to register with the Programme for Advancement Through Health ad Education. For the good of children, responsible people must do what needs to be done.

A final word for teachers — most of whom are hard-working and dedicated professionals yet, all of whom, are poorly paid. To them we say, stay the course. Even when the job may seem thankless, Jamaica's teachers must keep making the sacrifices for the good of their country.

As Mr Theobold Fearon, new principal of Black River High, put it, “Teachers have the potential to inspire and motivate students… or we can turn them off and demotivate them to Jamaica's peril.”

On behalf of all Jamaicans, this newspaper says thanks to teachers for their selfless, tireless sacrifice.

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