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Who is looking out for our students?

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Fri, Jun 25, 2010

Editor: What kind of future are we preparing for our primary school students? The non-academic disciplines are woefully neglected as unbridled priority is given to academics.{{more}} Therefore, we continue to vilify our students whenever they fail to achieve the “Fortunate Five Hundred” status in Common Entrance. Given that everyone is not academically inclined, isn’t it unfair to brand less academically affluent students as dunce? Shouldn’t a more holistic and futuristic education thrust have been adopted by the present government (touted as visionary) into its tenth year?

Furthermore, this paradigm has facilitated the demise of sports in our primary schools. This is evident in the nonexistence of a sustainable sports programme in the schools. As a result, traditional sports like cricket, netball and football languish in the doldrums of youth despair. The product of this is the continuous plummeting we receive in all disciplines of regional sports, more so the Windward Islands’ Secondary School Games. Yet the powers that be remain apathetic, wallowing in the comfort of the glory days.

Our over-reliance on academics has left us with the unfortunate legacy of playing politics with our nation’s children. There are cases where Grade 6 teachers conveniently apply for long leave in order to avoid teaching a perceived “slow crop of students”! There are reported cases where political interference disrupts school chemistry by banishing hard-working teachers to other schools. Who are the victims in these circumstances? The students’ cause is not helped by a plethora of politically clothed teachers who continue to miss-fire.

From my privileged vantage point, the cohesion level has fallen appreciably, as an increasing number of teachers find it difficult to gel within the school settings. In some cases, students are neglected and trampled upon by their teachers at the expense of finding favour in their superiors’ sight. Colleague-snitching is now the norm as teachers pull out all the stops to ensure their selfish hides are covered. Should there be any mystery why so many schools continue to under-achieve? Remember the Chinese proverb: “When two elephants fight it’s the ants beneath that get crushed.”

A clear case of politics was manifested seven years ago in the appointment of a clueless, ill-equipped and ineffective Senior Qualified Assistant Teacher to head a new rural primary school. The subsequent damage wrought by this tactless manager is now felt throughout the community. He has made a habit of transferring teachers who do not fit into his scheme of things. Teachers are often removed against the dictates of logic, disrupting staff composition.

Recently, a woman got her redress in a village dispute by slapping an 11-year-old school girl senseless on the girl’s school compound. This happened during school hours in direct view of staff members! No criminal proceedings were taken against the woman since the spineless principal was afraid to stand up for his student! Doesn’t this show a breakdown in leadership? After all, who’s looking out for our students?

It is imperative that the Ministry of Education get with the programme and develop a practical approach in an effort to foster positive change in the education system. A teacher should only be re-deployed to another school because of exigencies of the system, and not affiliations. His work ethic and productivity level should also be factored into such deliberations.

I close with a brazen idea that I envision will bear fruition in the distant future: decentralize the top 500

Common Entrance scholars. Yes, why not spread them out in Kingstown, Georgetown and Petit Bordel? Think about it. As absurd as it may sound, it makes complete sense.

Collin CA$H Haywood