The school that allows a child to drop out is not fit to be called a school

Dear Editor,
I have noted the Education Ministry decision to promote a child whether or not he/she has performed successfully has created quite a storm, with much criticism and revulsion. Many of the criticisms/comments made against this decision in my estimation were devoid of sound scientific or analytical reasoning and were instead based on the archaic and conventional stereotype format/method which we were structured into followed with rigid precision and by so doing, sadly clouded our vision to see another way. The man in the street cannot be blamed for such thinking since they know only what they know and from which they form their conclusion. Understandingly, we are often alarmed at the novelty of a thing, the Education Ministry definitely did not do much to inform, spread and promote its new approach/decision taken in place of a system that has been in existence for as long as time itself.

The response/objections as mentioned above, is as seen from a Linden perspective criticism/comments from the people of Linden, but I have noted that not a single personnel from the Education Dept. in Linden made any comment or explanation except for repeating from behind the scene the Ministry’s position.

So while many officials, staff and teachers are not in favour, they remain silent in the background, too afraid to express their opinion and this is so pitiful. But this is not the first time that they have behaved this way; this fear is long now a thing with teachers, and officials of the Ministry Dept. e.g. the Minister of Education has time and time again insisted that parents/guardians are not permitted to pay ‘contingency’ fees, since the Education Ministry adequately supplies all schools with things that are required to which many Head Teachers disagree, insist that ‘contingency’ must be paid and would even harangue parents/guardians at P.T.A meetings for failing to do so, yet would not be bold and forthright to tell the Ministers and his officials to their face the problems confronting the school(s) or express their opinions when they visit. Editor that apart; I would like to make a small contribution on the above mentioned topic. We all do agree that every child has a right to education-an entitlement, which is no different from the “No child left behind” concept, but this seems to be something accepted moreso in principle than in practice.

Since we fail to take into consideration that a child who is a 2-3 times repeater will leave school without completing the full curriculum. The child who finishes his/her schooling without completing the required amount of classes will be at a serious disadvantage to the one who has had the benefit of the full complement.

We need to further understand also that some critical factors that influence failure or success are not within the grasp of the school system. But this new concept as I see it puts a greater responsibility on teachers, and rightly so; that they must now produce at a higher level; to ensure that all students-not just the quick ones-are given equal attention and the extra help where needed to avoid failure.

The question about promoting a child regardless of his/her performance ought not to be looked at in a superficial and simplified manner but rather should be examined in a holistic and profound way, whereby, maybe it could help us detect and arrest whatever hitherto hidden flaws/impediment in an age old system we have been slavishly clinging to and ultimately encourage and improve the performance of those we so hastily/impatiently reject as failures.

Try to understand that a child encouraged to perform will not sit idle for one school year to the next waiting to be ungraciously tossed from class to class except that child has some serious form of deficiency or mental disorder. I can remember a really disturbing scene, where upon visiting a classroom a teacher pointed to students sitting in the back row and said “yuh see them, me ain’t gat time with them, if dem ain’t want learn is they business, me ain’t knocking nobody child ….” What was worse, some of them had no writing desk, they were virtually isolated and forgotten-doomed to failure.

They saw the teacher talking to me and probably heard her for she was very emphatic and loud, but I observed the expression on their faces and their piercing stare,-as they too were observing us-that told a story that teacher would never know, and was not the least interested in.

That teacher, by her snobbish neglect of those back-row pupils was providing the perfect recipe for their failure. The teaching profession I contend is not an easy task, or a piece of pie as they say, but rather taxing and challenging, it demands that one must try to be resourceful, imaginative and determined, showing resilience and less resignation, or else he/she would appear no different from those students they dismissed as lazy “not cut out for teaching” as many like to label children “not cut out for school”. Editor allow me to end by sharing a piece from “A letter to a teacher” which I saw a long time ago-food for thought. `If a teacher was paid as to every child that succeeds or was penalized by a fine for every child that fails, that teacher would by any means necessary find a way for the entire class to come good.

That teacher would search out in the inattentive stare of which ever child the intelligence that God has put in him/her as in all children, would fight for the child who needs your attention most, neglecting the gifted ones; would wake up at nights thinking about him/her and would try to think and invent new ways to teach that child ways that would suit his/her needs, even fetch him from home if he/she did not show up for class.’ The letter went on to state that the most cruel punishment, way out of proportion, worse than the mark of a whip was allowing a child to leave school without being able to read a book or write a decent letter. The school that allows a child to drop out is not fit to be called a school.

Yours faithfully,
Frank Fyffe

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