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NO LAUGHING MATTER: 49 000 babies, really?


Mac Fingall

NO LAUGHING MATTER: 49 000 babies, really?

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I VISITED a secondary school two weeks ago and learned that it had 8 first forms and that most of those first formers could not read or write (up to the expected standard). Then in talking to a couple of them, I found out that they could not add, subtract or multiply either.
That scared me. I started to wonder what happened at their respective primary schools.
What were they doing there? If not taught to read and write, what were they being taught? How did they get to secondary school?
Then I further wondered when are they going to learn to read and write and add and subtract – before they started to multiply.
I averaged them to be about 240 first formers in that one place. I wondered about their future. What are they going to become? What are we going to do with them? I wondered about our future, Barbados’ future. What are they going to do to us?
I wondered if these would indeed produce children and what kind of children they would be, especially since we all know that “sheep don’t make goat”.
Suddenly, I heard of moving the population from 276 000 to 325 000. Those who can add would probably get an increase of 49 000. So then I wondered who are more likely to reproduce in large numbers.
I shivered at the thought.
We used to boast a literacy rate of 99 per cent and then 98 per cent. At that time those percentages were among the highest in the entire world. Yes! We! Barbados! I too used to be the proud promoter of such envious statistics.
But now I can boast no longer for this experience coupled with some other recent observations has caused me to strongly believe that the next survey could put us around 78 per cent literacy.
By the way, literacy just deals with “read and write”. It does not deal with the minibus culture, littering, cursing, smoking, drinking, drug use, bad manners, domestic abuse, “not lining up” or any such behaviour. Scary?
At another secondary school last week, I noticed that a police officer was at the gate. My first thought was that some major incident had occurred in order for the police to be present. I subsequently learned that the police officer is actually stationed at the school. I mean this officer is at the school every school day, all day long.
Now I pondered, what message are we sending to the children at this school? Surely we are telling them that the teachers and principal cannot control them or protect them. How do they now view the teacher?
Placing the police at the school also reflects on the principal who is supposed to be the ultimate ruler, controller, guide and protector. When the police officer is seen at the school every day, the impact of “police presence”, when it is really needed, would become non-existent, for it would have become the norm.
I dare say that at that time the students who are the troublemakers would feel victorious.
Knowing the average teenager’s mentality, I am sure that this lack of confidence in the teacher will transfer into disrespect and then into disruption in the classroom. The teenager actually loves discipline and likes things to be orderly but when you show weakness, they will run all over you. They want the teacher to be in control; they want to respect the teacher. But the teacher must demand it and consistently so.
On another occasion, I met two 12-year-old boys who told me that they had never heard of the word commandment. I said “you have never heard ‘Thou shall kill’, ‘thou shall not steal’? They said, “no sir, never yet.”
I remembered when I was a teenager, I would sometimes get so angry with people, and sometimes the world, that I felt like hurting someone, but the commandments would come into my head and I would desist for I did not want to go against the wishes of God.
So when I imagined that these two boys did not have the lesson of the commandments and by extension the fear of God, it became clear to me how easy it is for them to hurt someone and don’t feel remorse.
Now Mr Minister, before the breeding and multiplying, which, by the way I am glad that you thinking about for it tells me that you are probably against same-sex marriage, I would suggest that we go back to reading, writing and spelling as separate subjects in schools – primary and secondary.
Also, our teachers should not only be hired because of academic qualifications and nepotism, but should show evidence of leadership, responsibility, courage, commitment, strength and general human-caring skills.
And please don’t forget religious knowledge. God is real.
Mac Fingall is an entertainer and retired secondary schoolteacher. Email [email protected]

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