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EDITORIAL: Suffer them to come unto the children

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

EDITORIAL: Suffer them to come unto the children

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EVERY?NOW?AND?THEN the concept of compulsory national service comes up for consideration. Often it has to do with the military, the argument being that the rigidity of the army makes for sound discipline in our youth, and for the good of the society.
On this latest occasion, the compulsory service suggestion has to do with a much less strictured programme: remedial education.
Former Minister of Education Keith Simmons told the SUNDAY?SUN this past weekend that he had suggested to the Government that “all students, on entry into university, should sign a contract in which they were mandated to dedicate three hours to teaching those primary school students who may be falling behind in class”.
That would be three hours a week at elementary level assisting the young pupils with the three Rs: reading, (w)riting and (a)rithmetic.
Current Minister of Education Ronald Jones, though seemingly amenable to the idea of university students offering assistance to primary pupils, doesn’t think the service should be mandatory . . . . That the university students should “give back to society on a voluntary basis”.
We accept the notion that the mentoring of primary school minds by the big brother, big sister programme has much benefit: as much for the guided as for the guide – provided, of course, as Mr Jones has intimated, that there is the appropriate “orientation” of the university student for the job.
So the question: is voluntary or compulsory a good deed?
On the surface, there could hardly be a downside to Mr Jones’ noble stance of volunteerism, but looked at more deeply, volunteer work is unpaid. At best, reward is emotional, and may be spiritual; but this is a time in a young university student’s life when he yearns for pocket money.
Volunteers will be few and far between.
University students are driven by incentive, primarily by accumulation of study credits. It would be an alternative consideration for Minister of Education Jones, if he will not be swayed by the compulsory service idea of Mr Simmons.
Already we have had the criticism that many graduates of the University of the West Indies, or other universities paid for by the Government of Barbados, have given back little in their newly found professions – when they have the means to. What would inspire undergraduates with much less means?
A mandatory pact to scratch Government’s back as the Government scratches that of the student, if not that noble, is certainly most practical in the circumstances.
It may be all that those primary school pupils reportedly lagging behind have to hold onto.