EDITORIAL: Consider issues raised by Jones
Minister of Education Mr Ronald Jones has thrown out a challenge to school administrators to which they must of necessity respond. There can be no middle ground on his comments as they relate to dress codes, discipline and imparting knowledge.
Mr Jones’ statements, while targeted particularly at principals and senior teachers, are of such importance that other stakeholders, whether parents, trade unionists, senior students and old scholars, must weigh in on the issues raised.
Our primary and secondary school system has been one in which a number of principals have held the assumption that “this is my school” and therefore they have done as they saw fit. The unfortunate truth is that many people have suffered in such circumstances, often innocent young people and sometimes even teachers, with no recourse to fair play and natural justice.
While Mr Jones has addressed specific issues, it is important that this be the start of a discourse which must deal with a wider range of concerns. Many students annually face the threat of being sent home as soon as they are 16 years old, often because of frivolous reasons. There is also the challenge which a problem-plagued public transportation system throws up; this may get worse rather than better.
There are students with psychological and psychiatric problems which go unaddressed, while we have some teachers who do not deliver what they are required to do and whose poor performance is not adequately evaluated.
The Minister of Education has the authority to seek resolution to these and other problems. He should not speak through any second or third party to those who must hear his points of view. We are suggesting that he and his Chief Education Officer, along with other senior personnel from that ministry, convene a meeting with key stakeholders. They can speak directly to these critical contributors and most importantly, get their feedback. This should happen before the start of the new academic year in September.
Already Mr Jones has earned a reputation, whether fair or unfair, for making comments which create a stir among the public. While his intent may be noble, he needs to avoid any further misinterpretation of his message. As someone who has worked in the classroom, been a leader in industrial relations for teachers and has served as the voice of the Democratic Labour Party on education both in Opposition and in Government, he is well aware of and understands the issues.
The matters of appropriate dress, lateness, discipline and indeed how schools reach out to their charges will take on greater significance in an environment where parents, guardians, teachers, the ministry and the Government – the entire country – are all under various types of stress.
This is not a time to trade jabs but to overcome all the issues afflicting our schools. People are in many instances on tenterhooks.