Editorial

To answer the call of Calabar, nay, of Jamaica

Monday, November 20, 2017

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The concept that each individual has a role to play, no matter how small, in the building of community and nation is not contentious and is easily understood.

Sadly though, while most people recognise the value of volunteerism, fewer and fewer persons are willing to make the sacrifice.

Far too many people don't bother to reach out a hand to others even when they know they can and should. They back away from helping, maybe because they feel it will cost too much in time and effort, and perhaps leave a dent in their pocket.

It was uplifting, then, to read in yesterday's Sunday Observer of a group of young men, past students of Calabar High School in Kingston, who are reaching out to help students master mathematics.

We are told that Messrs Shamoy Wallace, Kemar Gordon, Simon Johnson and Christopher Lai gave up their Saturdays to tutor a subject which is the bane of so many, not just in Jamaica, but across the Caribbean region and the world.

We are told that after a slow start with only three children attending class, numbers have now built up to more than 100. The youngsters are being tutored free of cost, with meals provided at the end of each Saturday session.

Interestingly, although the project was initiated by past students of Calabar High, children, boys and girls, from Jamaica College, Camperdown High, Merl Grove High, Excelsior, and Jose Marti Technical High are also attending.

That fact by itself is worthy of mention, we believe, because of Jamaica's dominant culture of school-tie affiliation which, unfortunately, sometimes manifests itself in unhealthy ways.

We applaud Mr Wallace and his colleagues for their commitment “to improving … maths grades right across the island”, not just at Calabar.

Their innovative approach to imparting maths should be taken note of and perhaps copied by many teachers. Mr Wallace tells us that: “We give notes, introduce card games, incentives for scoring the highest, and give them (students) reasons to stay motivated and pumped.”

Crucially, they recognise that many young people are afraid of maths and dislike it, simply because they “never learnt it properly”.

We are told that in addition to tutoring, the group of friends are also playing the role of mentors.

“When a student can open up, and level with you, they feel more comfortable. When you can say, 'hey I went through this and this is how I solved it, or say to them, 'your problems now aren't any different from ours'. When you can reason and say 'the girls you're thinking about will always be there, but the opportunity for a good education may not; and you talk their language, it makes a difference for them,” Mr Wallace said.

Here is an example for all Jamaica to follow. It's not enough to simply recognise the value of helping others. As a people, each and every individual, should act on that recognition. Furthermore, governments and institutions can't do it all in the building of community and nation. Each one of us should play our part.

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