There has been a very important debate around Dominica and The Caribbean on the subject of how best to solve the problem of deviance and academic underachievement among our primary and secondary school students. These two major problems seem to be most evident among our boys.
Firstly, there is solid evidence documented in the official files of our Ministry of Education and other official files in the offices of principals, vice principals and school counselors in Dominica which clearly demonstrates how serious this problem is. Further, The 2006 OECS Report on the causes and solutions to the problem of indiscipline and violence at our schools has put forward solutions which we urgently need to implement at all our primary and secondary schools. As parents, teachers, principals, counselors and education officers ,we should therefore not be in any doubt as to the seriousness of these problems. Further, we know very well what the major causes, effects and solutions to these problems are; therefore, we all know all to well that another inquiry or investigation will not solve these problems.
It is very clear, even to the blind, that what we need to do immediately is to appoint the right persons who are professionally trained disciplinarians of solid character and moral fiber to manage those primary and secondary schools which are underachieving academically and have become breeding grounds for criminals ! Too many of our parents, teachers, school administrators, counselors and officials continue to pamper criminal behaviours in some students. Then, they seem shocked when these behaviours grow and explode into tragic incidents.
Secondly, all our teachers, principals ,vice principals and heads of department need to set and implement much higher standards of discipline and academic achievement at all our primary and secondary schools. We have enough information; what we need is sound leadership and action at every level of education, starting at the home and school!
Also, we need to impose a greater level of God given responsibility and accountability on parents and students themselves for achieving excellence. We demand much too little of our parents and students for taking charge of the learning and disciplining of their children. Now we are experiencing the brutal consequences of parental neglect and lack of accountability at home. Our media houses and churches need to be part of this urgent struggle to ensure that parents take charge of their home and children daily!
On the very serious question of the increase in cases of homosexuality and lesbianism within our schools and society at large; God’s Holy Word, The Holy Bible, has very clearly given The Almighty God’s final verdict on this matter; and the words God’s Holy Bible uses are “an abomination unto God !”.
These are very strong and serious words indeed which should never be treated lightly by our education officials or anyone of us. There is a very serious need for professional Psychological Counseling , abundant prayers for healing and spiritual help for any of our students, teachers, principals and others within our schools and education system , and society at large, who have this issue. Our churches need to speak out strongly on this issue and play their rightful role as spiritual authorities for the good of our society.
It must be absolutely clear to us all that the problems of deviance and academic underachievement must be confronted and solved at home and within the individual school. This takes very hard and stubborn work daily with God’s help. The key stakeholders are our parents, teachers, principals, vice principals and students themselves. We are the ones responsible for solving these problems on a daily basis. This is where the solution must be found!!
Also, each school must have a strategic management and development plan which focuses on dealing with and solving all issues of discipline, classroom management, academic and technical performance, security and other operational matters. Our mothers ,fathers, grand parents, aunts ,uncles and other family members are the persons who must first educate ,discipline and nurture each child in Godly love at home. The family is the first school. We need to restore this basic principle in education. Further, each school must have the required expertise within the school management and staff to develop, put into operation and evaluate the school’s strategic management and development plan and to implement solutions.
Finally, it must be clearly understood that no one researcher or investigator, even as a trained expert, can solve the problems of deviance and underachievement at our schools. The critical areas where The Ministry of Education needs to continue to invest to facilitate success in education are as follows. Please let us continue to invest much more in:
1) Increasing substantially the number of training opportunities for our teachers, lecturers, vice principals and principals at The Bachelors, Masters and Phd levels in a wide area of specialties to include the academic ,technical and vocational subject areas. This will ensure that all our pre-schools, primary and secondary school teachers and lecturers are professionally trained and qualified to teach before they enter the teaching service.
2) Employ many more male teachers so as to ensure that every primary and secondary school has equal numbers of male and female teachers. This would go a very long way in improving the level of discipline. Also, it would provide both our male and female students with more positive male role models. Many of our students have no positive male role models at home.
3) There needs to be a rapid increase in the number of technical and vocational subjects offered within all our primary and secondary schools as well as at the Dominica State College – subjects such as woodwork and furniture making, auto mechanic, industrial sewing, plumbing, building construction and technical drawing, metal work and welding, music and fine arts; just to mention a few. These subjects also need to be taught to teachers at the Faculty of Education of The Dominica State College, together with the regular courses in Social Studies, English, Mathematics and Natural Science.
4) Our schools as well as urban, suburban and rural communities and village councils need to improved physical education and recreational facilities and family education programs to facilitate the physical, recreational and social development of our youth and adults alike. All media houses , musicians ,especially calypsonians and other artists, the churches and other NGO’s have an equally important role to play in finding solutions to the above problem. Our students , all youth and adults need healthy and positive recreational outlets for their energies.
5) We as a society need to demand that parents play our rightful roles of properly socializing and disciplining our children at home. This must be legally enforced! The school must never be asked to take up the parental role of being the first teachers of our children. The home is the first school and this basic fact must be enacted and enforced in a revised Education Act. The present Education Act needs to be strengthened to focus on these areas of parental responsibility.
6) Our School principals and vice principals must be more carefully selected and trained to better manage schools on a daily basis. Also, many more teachers, particularly Social Studies Teachers need to be trained as Counselors and Social Workers so as to better assist principals and parents to manage deviant students.
7) Finally, we as a nation need to take firm and immediate action to remodel our system of education on those of Singapore, Canada, Barbados, Cuba, Germany, China and India, so that we can learn from some of the World’s best practices and successful models of nations who have used education to reshape, redevelop and prosper their societies.
This is certainly not the time of reinventing the wheel and having time-consuming investigations which will only further complicate an already serious problem at our schools. The simple fact is that the major problems of deviance and student underachievement must always be managed, solved, or prevented at the foundational levels of the home and the specific school because this the source or origin of the problem. Let us talk less and act more. Loving, caring but firm and decisive discipline at home and schools is what students understand and respond to positively. This is particularly true of our boys; as well as our girls! Our families and schools should therefore ensure that the buck stops with them in solving the problem of deviance and underachievement among our students.
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