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OUR CARIBBEAN: Taking ‘action’ on violence at schools


OUR CARIBBEAN: Taking ‘action’ on violence at schools

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IN THESE STRESSFUL days of life, across our Caribbean region and the wider global community, Monday’s page-one lead story in the Daily Nation may well have aggravated tension for some families with school-going children, though that would not have been the intent.

Yet, in this Caribbean Community state, accustomed to being praised for commitment to civilised behaviour and admirable social norms, the screaming headline, Wild Youth and related drop-head, Teachers Told To Be On Guard In The Class Room, could well serve as a wake-up call for more than the Ministry of Education and parent/teachers bodies to move intelligently and quickly against the reported spreading “wildness”.

Sadly, we have grown painfully aware of recurring public verbal clashes involving the Minister of Education and top officials of teachers unions on various issues of concerns while problems seem to widen as solutions remain elusive.

In the circumstances, it may be worthwhile for new approaches to prevailing problems be considered for action.

For instance, like that resorted to in some other CARICOM states – namely structured national public consultations that involve representations from government, trade unions and parent-teachers bodies as well as the police and religious organisations.

To avoid being just a “talk-fest” the consultation should be based on invited written submissions for open discussion over a two or three-day period with the understanding that the more relevant major recommendations would be considered for urgent action within specific time frames.

In short, let there be a cutting of the “talk” and walking of the required “walk”.

Today’s wringing of hands and shrill cries about “war zones” may be “red” alerts. In the final analysis it is the Government, and specifically the Ministry of Education, that has the power and responsibility to at least initiate the required public consultation as a practical way forward in the sharing of ideas to help arrest the spreading epidemic of gross indiscipline, sheer rudeness and, worse violence at schools.

Jamaica’s CCJ “dance”

There is also among matters of current growing concerns within our Caribbean Community, the recurring failure by Jamaica – itself no stranger to the culture of disturbing violence at schools – to cease its ritual parliamentary debates on termination of Britain’s Privy Council as the country’s final appellate institution and resort, instead, to accessing the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) as its court of last resort.

ccj1For a people with a rich history in the struggles against slavery and colonialism, as well as robust contributions in the stirring of political passions for independence, Jamaica continues to invite ridicule – and not just among CARICOM partners – for continuing to hold on to the apron string of the Privy Council instead of resorting to the CCJ as its appeal court of last resort, for which the country has already it paid millions of dollars.

By so doing, Jamaica’s political culture is a tortuous replica of Trinidad and Tobago.

They proudly remain the first two CARICOM states to celebrate political independence from Britain 52 years ago, within weeks of each other.

Likewise, Jamaica continues to engage in a demeaning political choreography with an amusing reluctance to part company with the London-based Privy Council in favour of the CCJ, headquartered in Port-of-Spain.

However, a prevailing fundamental difference between Kingston and Port-of-Spain, is the recurring objections of the parliamentary opposition Jamaica Labour Party (currently under the leadership of Andrew Holness) for the governing People’s National Party of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller) to first agree to establish a final national appeal court before accessing the CCJ as the country’s court of last resort.

In Trinidad and Tobago, both the People’s Partnership government of Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and the opposition People’s National Movement of Keith Rowley are currently focused on coming national elections – which could occur within the first half of this year.

The Jamaican Prime Minister Simpson-Miller, last week sent a clear message, warning if you like, to the JLP’s decision-makers: The warning?

All 63 elected Members of Parliament – currently dominated by the PNP – now have until this coming April 28 to either support or reject a trio of related bills to make it constitutionally right for the CCJ to function as Jamaica’s final appeal court and the scrapping of any access to Britain’s Privy Council.

The irony of this expected development is the happiness it would also bring to enlightened British law lords who have themselves been openly advocating an end to appeals to the Privy Council from former colonies of the United Kingdom.