Kendal crash, milestones and discipline


Thursday, September 07, 2017

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There are four major milestones that occurred in this first week of September. They are seemingly irrelevant to each other, but there is, in fact a common thread. The need for character training and discipline among our young people stands out, especially in a nation where peace and unity are real challenges.

The four milestones are the following: First, the Kendal crash occurred 60 years ago on September 1, 1957. Second, Jamaica College began a new school culture 50 years ago when it became fully a school of day students — a way of life that went on for 49 years. One year ago the boarding school reopened at Jamaica College. Third, September 4, 2017 marked 40 years since the establishment of a joint Anglican and Roman Catholic Church in Bridgeport, St Catherine — the Church of the Reconciliation — in 1977. And fourth, 10 years ago on September 3, 2007, Bruce Golding led the Jamaica Labour Party to victory and was sworn in as prime minister a few days later.

What caused the Kendal crash? The official report said it was an accidental failure of the brakes. Investigations done over the years reveal that young men did acts of crime and violence on the trains each day, especially on the return journeys at night. The story on the streets is that the robbers pulled out the brake cable, instead of the electricity cable, which caused the monster train crash at Kendal in Manchester that killed 186 people with hundreds injured.

If the unofficial story is true, then we should ask why we had criminals in 1957. Many measures to change it have taken place since, but how effective have those measures been? Please bear in mind that the 20-year-old criminal on that train is 80 years old today, if still alive. Likewise, the 15-year-old criminal on that train is 75 years old today, if still alive.

Boarding schools and live-in trade training centres form one answer to discipline and character development in a nation where family life is lacking. Access to information-based education alone when students are in their formative years is not enough, which leads me to the second milestone.

I was not guessing when I wrote some months ago that the old Jamaica College (JC) boarding school closed down because of financial reasons, especially the laundry, which was outsourced and cleaned at a laundromat 58 miles away in Ocho Rios. My knowledge of the situation had nothing to do with being a research consultant. I was one of the last boarders there and my last housemaster in the boarding hostel, the late Jimmy Carnegie, explained everything to us. The school board applied for a boarding fee hike and it was refused by the then minister of education, the late Edwin Allen.

Why didn't JC just get some washing machines which had been in Jamaica from the 1950s, at least? Perhaps the general opinion then was that JC boys were above doing their own laundry. But wouldn't washing our own clothes teach discipline and round off our personalities? And because the boarding school was closed, there were many more social problems at JC, just as in every other school in Jamaica. Today there are washing machines in the new JC boarding hostel.

In 1955 Norman Washington Manley established the first youth camps, but today they are all tertiary institutions and part of what is known as HEART. Had there been more youth camps and boarding schools in 1957, perhaps the Kendal crash would not have occurred, as we would not have had so many idle hands to rob and to plunder on trains. And the closure of other boarding institutions which never reopened only adds to the problem today.

The mindset of crime and violence in Jamaica goes back to the days of Henry Morgan and the pirates. In order to keep the Treaty of Madrid (1670), Morgan was arrested and imprisoned in the Tower of London. But the English needed Morgan to control the pirates, so they brought him back to Jamaica as governor. Morgan did this by selling land cheaply to the pirates, who became the aristocrats, and from that day forward we have had the problem of crime and violence.

In those times the crime and violence was manifested in the stealing of land and slaves from others. For example, African slaves bound for Cuba, who were all Roman Catholics, were stolen from a boat and brought to St Mary in Jamaica. These slaves kept an underground church without a priest in an era when the Roman Catholic Church was banned in Jamaica. When the Roman Catholic Church was restored, a church was built in Preston Hill, St Mary, where a church still exists. The main point here is that piracy and stealing did not stop.

There are many other stories about the continuation of piracy. For example, Charles Drax, who died in 1721, left in his will provisions for a school. But it was not established until 74 years later, in 1795, a school that would be called Jamaica College on its fifth name change. Someone, it is alleged, stole the money and set up another school. Has education based on information alone stopped this sort of behaviour? Doesn't the school have to be the alternate family when there is a problem with domestic family units?

In 1655 the English overlords, who were all Anglicans, banned the Roman Catholic Church in Jamaica when they captured the island. Some 322 years later, a joint church of Anglican and Roman Catholics was established in Portmore in 1977. It was the idea of one of the Matalon brothers, who may have been concerned that two churches would mean less houses built. Nevertheless, it created steps towards unity and peace, which in turn helps character training.

Bruce Golding became prime minister 10 years ago in September 2007. He suddenly resigned in September 2011 — noticeably after the saga involving Christopher “Dudus” Coke, himself a beneficiary of 'good' high school education. So how has the education system helped in solving our character development needs? It seems to me that the entire education system needs to be overhauled.




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