Columns

Teaching fear and oppression, not accountability

All eyes on the Ministry of Education

BY GLENROY MURRAY

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

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Having written on this topic before, I am pleased to see the collective outrage at the posturing of the acting principal at Calabar High School, Calvin Rowe, who reaffirmed the illegal decision (it being contrary to the Education Act) to expel students who don't attain an average of 60, but failed to protect one of the very teachers whose time, dedication and effort will secure this average.

The problem, however, does not start and stop at Red Hills Road, or even Kingston for that matter. The problem is the hands-off approach by the Ministry of Education, which has allowed school administrators to play the roles of dictators, petty kings and queens, and cruel despots.

I suppose I should not have expected any change under the tenure of former Senator Ruel Reid, who not only maintained his position as a school administrator while leading the very ministry that should hold his ilk accountable, but, after his 'fall from grace', reports suggest there was even a conversation of him returning to his substantive post even as police conduct serious investigations into his alleged corruption.

I think as the Ministry of Education transitions into new leadership, this Government and its Opposition should think long and hard about the kinds of messages being sent to our students; that powerful men and women will not be held accountable for their wrongdoing, that the due consideration given to student athletes extends to impunity for violent acts committed against teachers, and that Jamaica is not run by the rule of law but by the will and whim of powerful men.

These are the same school administrators who will vigorously defend violent acts committed to remove students' hair choices and police their uniforms in the name of discipline. Apparently, discipline is only a matter for non-athletic students who wish to express their culture in creative ways, but not so for violent behaviour among athletic students.

The fact that such a wide authority is given to school administrators overseen by school boards (whose members are oftentimes past students blinded by nostalgia and misplaced priorities) is something that every right-thinking member of Jamaica should take issue with.

Schools set the standard for what to expect in the wider society, and if all we're teaching our future generation is that their appearance matters more than their conduct, depending on who they are, then we have no one else to blame for the high levels of corruption and criminality. We don't teach respect for rule of law, we teach respect for powerful men. We don't teach accountability, we teach fear and oppression.

All eyes are on the Ministry of Education to act meaningfully and decisively as Jamaica's future hangs in the balance.

Glenroy Murray is an advisor to the Equality for All Foundation Jamaica Limited. Send comments to the Observer or glenroy.am.murray@gmail.com.


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