Celebrating Boys’ Scholastic Achievement

For the first time since 2012, boys outperformed girls in the 2017 sitting of the Language Arts paper in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). According to data released by the Ministry of Education, Youth & Information, boys achieved a higher mean percentage score of 76.7% in Language Arts, compared to 68.5 % for girls. This development augurs well for boys’ education, especially since men’s educational attainments have fallen and continue to fall drastically behind women’s. Boys’ underachievement has been at the heart of many academic journals and discussion over the years. The issue is not unique to Jamaica; in fact the concern is of global significance and is rooted in both a socio-political and educational ideology. Males over the years have been underperforming at almost every level of Jamaica’s education system. There are various schools of thought which have been forwarded with regards to boys’ underachievement. There are those who argue that boys’ underachievement is a direct result of the emphasis that has been placed on girls and women. Secondly, there are those who locate the problem in relation to wider social changes and how this impacts males, particularly adolescent males with regards to their view of masculinity and schooling. Statistics from the Mona Campus, of the University of the West Indies, indicate that more than seventy per cent (70%) of all graduates are females. Data from the other degree granting institutions paint a similar picture. The discourse surrounding gender and education is often emotional resulting in a loss of focus regarding the issue at hand. Boys too have structural hurdles to overcome in the education system. One such is the gender-based bias in the curriculum as well as the methodology being used. It is hope that the new National Standards Curriculum (NSC) will address the deficit boys’ face. According to the Minister of Education, Senator Ruel Reid, the National Standards Curriculum will improve methods of teaching, particularly for boys. The National Standards Curriculum aims at improving the general academic performance, attitude and behavior of students. The National Standard Curriculum is student centered and emphasis will be placed on project-based and problem-solving learning, with Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics (STEAM) incorporated at all levels of the education system. It is critical that we engage our males, specifically, adolescent males in trying to change the gender norms within the society, one of which is that English Language is a girl’s subject. Unfortunately, we live in a society in which boys who display school smarts are often ridiculed as effeminate by peers and even adults in areas where academic excellence by males is typically devalued. Undoubtedly, our males continue to struggle with questions surrounding their masculinity and manhood and many just give in to the popular culture of the day. The achievement of our boys at the primary level is more significant against this prevailing thug culture often far removed from education. It would be interesting to have the progress of these young men tracked over the duration of their high school years to see how well they perform at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) especially so in English Language. We need to build on the momentum gained from the boys’ GSAT achievement by fostering a movement to rescue our boys from academic slumber. The onus is on the policy makers to ensure that equality of educational opportunity for both sexes is achieved and that this is sustainable for the long term viability and development of the society. In the words of freedom fighter and statesman Nelson Mandela, education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

A Changing Culture-For the Better or Worse?

“We are, at almost every point of our day, immersed in cultural diversity: faces, clothes, smells, attitudes, values, traditions, behaviours, beliefs, rituals”- Randa Abdel- Fattah

It is astonishing and somewhat frightening how our ideas about self, the society, gender-relations, masculinity, politics, culture and indeed the world have changed over time. Recently, a colleague and I had a discussion surrounding some of the social issues which infuriate many law abiding citizens. My colleague was very obdurate regarding how much in bondage we still are as a people and collectively as a society. My colleague stated that the freedom we lose as a society with each fleeting culture change is rather disturbing and unacceptable. It bears thought as to what are some of these freedoms? We are also left to ponder whether or not culture is static or is culture on a continuum defined by globalization and technological advancement. Culture is defined by The Center for Research of Language as the characteristics of knowledge of a group of people, defined by everything from language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music and arts. The Center for Research of Language Acquisition goes a step further by defining culture as shared patterns of behaviours and interactions, cognitive constructs and understanding that are learned by socialization. This bondage of self to which we seek freedom is to a great extent self-imposed having been socialized in a manner not to critically think outside the box about issues which affect us, including those pertaining to cultural matters. We live in a society in which our mores and norms are part of the socialization process and are handed down to us from role models and parental figures usually along matriarchal lines. To this extent one can easily dismiss the father figure role in the process of socialization since many of our homes are father-less. This is quite troubling on many fronts, especially the responsibility regarding how to be a man role has been taken over by mothers, strong black women, who single-handedly have had to raise generations of boys into men. This is especially true for Jamaica, as the 2012 Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions shows that 46.4 per cent of all households were female-headed. One can surmise that the situation has worsened since the survey was conducted five years ago. Dr. Barry Davidson of the Family Life Ministries research was a bit more probing and revealed that father-absent children scored lower in Intelligence Quotient (IQ) than father-present children. This finding is rather disconcerting and should be of concern not only to parents but to the policy makers especially those in the field of education. Undoubtedly, this finding has serious implications regarding parenting in light of the absence and burdens this place on the parent who is there in administering discipline and raising the children.

Genderization of our Culture

We live in a world and society in which even our refreshments and drinks have been coloured by gender. We often speak of female drinks and male drinks. I was at the barbershop recently, and my barber informed me that Smirnoff is a typical a female drink; he went on school me in the genderization of liquor. He ended the lesson by telling me that Campari was a male drink. My trip to the barbershop was for a haircut, not to be schooled in the binary construction of drinks along gendered lines. However, we all know that the barbershop just as much as the hair salon is that space, where ideas collide consciously and subconsciously on life and social issues. The premise behind the male versus female drinks has much to do with the alcohol content in a drink the more alcohol content the more masculine gender the drink becomes associated with. Additionally, our fruits have also taken on a gendered involvedness. The peach for example, is largely considered a female fruit. My colleague added that many men do not eat strawberry, simply because, they claim nothing of that colour should pass their mouth. Just stupidity if you ask me! However, this is the reality and these realities are true of men from a wider cross section of the society regardless of the intersectionality of social class, educational background, religious persuasion or age. These gendered ideas are rooted in a culture of hyper-masculinity and machismo. Ironically, behind closed doors, some of the said men who have this twisted ideas, are the very ones who are indulging in fifty shades of grey and ‘under the table’ activities. Years ago males who used lip-balm were looked on as being weird, now, it has become commonplace, especially in North America for men to wear chap sticks especially during the harsh months of winter. The examples are endless and all these issues are associated with social constructs that each society has in place to somewhat regulate human behavior. The politician by the name Andrew Fletcher once said; “Let me write the songs of a nation: I don’t care who writes its laws.” His point is all too clear for if music were a workman’s tool it would be a hammer. As per definition by the Center for Research of Language the behaviours and thought patterns that create culture are learned. However, one does not become cultured by merely reading about a culture and I would argue that the halls of academia have little impact. Culture is formed through living and interacting with people, together we form culture. I made reference to music because I believe this is our most effective way of influencing behaviour and thought construct. Parents have a lot to do with our cultural make up. Music, especially reggae touches people at the very core (heart beat music), stirring emotions and imprinting on our minds the doctrines that becomes culture. Some may see this as another attempt to malign Reggae music. However, this is not the case. I am a lover of our music and I am proud of it being a hallmark of our culture. With that said I look back on my own life and remember messages and ideas that were conveyed via all genres of media but found music to be the most influential. During the 1980s crack/cocaine was issues new to Jamaican youths but not for the life of me can I recall one advertisement regarding this issue. The mass was once again reached through music. The lyrics; “doone gi mi that mi nuh waan nuh crack” and “coke is a ting weh feed pan yuh system” comes to mind. This followed by Shine Head encouraging us to; strive, remove the doubt from out your minds and let good flow”. The Jamaican cultural identity continues to evolve. Our values and attitudes are no longer being shaped and defined by ourselves. Instead the Jamaican cultural identity has become a cultural hybrid mirroring closely the happenings of those who control of the economic purse string to which the Jamaican state need access to in order to realize sustainable development and progress.

In the words of Mark Pagel, culture has worked by coming to exercise a form of mind control over us. We willingly accept and even embrace this mind control, and probably without even knowing it.

Wayne Campbell, waykam@yahoo.com, @WayneCamo

and Andrew Nugent, laptopswer@gmail.com

Fatherhood, Masculinity and Society

We live in a society and indeed a world where fatherhood is often downplayed, particularly, in the black community where many men have abandoned or relinquish their roles as fathers. Notwithstanding this there are many outstanding, caring and industrious fathers who take their role as fathers and the accompanying responsibilities very seriously. Fatherhood goes beyond a biological act; fatherhood is a self-sacrificing commitment to see to the welfare and wellbeing of another human being. The coaching, mentoring and oversight of a good father can never be counted in monetary terms. We often equate good fatherhood solely in terms of how much money the man comes home with. However, a child needs more than money, after all money cannot buy the affection and the unconditional love of a child. Many men are lacking, and to those men, it’s time to step up and be that father to your child and to your children. To those men who are doing what is required of a good father we encourage you to continue on this journey. There is dignity in fatherhood! My father, Fitzroy, has always believed in, encouraged and supported me. Thank you dad! Fatherhood often comes with a price, a sense of pride in being there for your child no matter what. On this father’s day I urge you to examine yourself, and do what is necessary to be the best dad ever. It is vital that as men you develop a relationship with your child. Equally important is your spiritual relationship with God! Have a fun-filled and family-orientated father’s day!

Wayne Campbell

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

 

Relationships, Weddings and Culture

The complex issue of any relationship is rather fluid and filled with dynamism. A relationship is not like a Bugatti Veyron 16.4 sports car which can hit 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, or a Porsche 918 which can race to 60 mph in 2.2 seconds. Each society has norms steeped in cultural expectation and history which often serves as a guide or social control regarding the ‘dos and don’ts’ of relationships. One of the relational matters which always get strong opinions from both sexes is the perennial question: Would you invite your ex to your wedding? A wedding is supposed to be a happy and family orientated event in which the bride and groom take center stage. A colleague of mine, Alberto, not his real name, age 42, is of the belief that it is ok to invite one’s ex to one’s wedding. “I believe too many people have hang-ups about this person and that person. He added that if the ex is a great person, and we have a great friendship, I don’t see why not”. Alberto clearly takes a mature approach to the topic, a topic which is not necessarily in the category of most popular subject matter to discuss. However, in playing the devil advocate, one can ask the question, if the ex was such a great person, why is it that you did not marry that great person. Alberto adds, not everyone is meant to your mate, you may date, have a relationship and then you experience some deal breakers, like future plans don’t align or just some habits you can’t stand”. Alberto went on to say, “As long as she respects my wife and not trying to undercover, reconnect with me, and we have a healthy friendship, then I see no issues”. Alberto who is married revealed that he invited two of his exes to his wedding. He confidently stated that his wife knew about them. “As a matter of fact she has met them before and is even Facebook friends with them. You might be wondering if his exes turned up to the wedding. Take a guess, one made it, the other would have too, however, she had a family emergency. However, not all men are like Alberto. Kurt, age, 41, is also married and was quite adamant that inviting an ex girlfriend to one’s wedding is not a good idea. When asked if he would attend the wedding of an ex, this is what he said. “I don’t think I would go. Even though it may be good between us, the other person may not be comfortable with that”. A female colleague shared her opinion on the subject. I will refer to her as Miss Ting. Miss Ting also made it down the altar and is the mother of two children. “It is somewhat insensitive to invite an ex to your wedding, as such an occasion for the bride and groom is indicative of attainment, commitment, moving on and for the ex it cements loss, failure, inability to secure. So although the ex may be genuinely happy that such an individual is finding joy, even if that ex is married it’s almost impossible not to feel a sense of tortures while the bride and groom experiences joy unspeakable” Miss Foxy, age 48, sees this as a non-issue. “I would invite an ex with whom I have a good relationship and understanding after we break up”. Among the younger respondents to this rather informal survey are Black Princess, age 26, she was very unwavering that she would not invite her ex to her wedding. “Unless I was trying to make the person feel jealous and if that be so, there is some feelings”. Her friend, Shanna, age 24, said No, “ex is the ex, no feelings, even when they pick a number, that person must remain in the number lane”. Black Princess, agreed with her by adding, “remain ex lane, don’t cross the bounder”.

One cannot switch on and off one’s emotion like a pipe. The emotional journey which one engages in while in a relationship often takes a longer time to come to an end even after the relationship has ended. Clearly the jury is still out on this subject. The decision to invite or not invite an ex to one’s wedding is not a right or wrong one issue. It all deepens on the individuals involved, the level of respect each party has for the other as well as the type of relationship which existed between the parties. It bears thought that traditionally June is the month of weddings in Jamaica. On your wedding day the attention and focus should be on the bride and groom and not on some past relationship, or on issues associated with a past relationship. One’s wedding day should be drama free, unless you are doing a reality television show and desperate for ratings. Each person has to figure out what is best for them regarding their big day!

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

@WayneCamo

waykam@yahoo.com

Guard Young Against Lead Poisoning

We are all at risk of being poisoned by lead, however, our most vulnerable in the society, our children are at a greater risk of being exposed and affected by lead poisoning. The curious and free spirited sense of adventure in children put them at the fore for exposure to lead poisoning. Disturbingly, in many instances our children are not adequately supervised and they are left to explore, touch and taste all that they come into contact with including lead-coated objects. Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal found in the Earth’s crust. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the widespread use of lead has resulted in extensive environmental contamination and significant public health problems in many parts of the world. Once lead enters the body, it is distributed to organs such as the brain, kidneys, liver and bones. Interestingly, the body stores lead in teeth and bones where it accumulates over time. The WHO states that undernourished children are more susceptible to lead because their bodies absorb more lead if other nutrients, such as calcium, are lacking in their diet.

Long Term Impact of Lead Poisoning on Children

Many Jamaicans have a tendency to believe environmental matters are only issues which affect first world societies. We cannot underscore the responsibility of adults to safeguard the health and well being of our children. Exposure to lead can have extremely serious consequences on the health of our children. At high levels of exposure lead attacks the brain, and central nervous system. According to the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital website, exposure to lead can result in a variety of effects upon neuropsychological functioning including deficits in general intellectual functioning, ability to sustain attention on tasks, organization of thinking and behavior, speech articulation, language comprehension and production, learning and memory efficiency, fine motor skills and poor behavioural self-control. The same source states that the result of these neuropsychological deficits for the child is often rather debilitating and includes poor academic learning and performance. Research indicate that children who are survivors of severe lead poisoning maybe left with mental retardation and behavioural problems. Most medical studies conclude that lead poisoning affects children’s brain development resulting in reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), reduced attention span and increase anti-social behavior. According to research conducted by Dr. Aisha Dickerson, postdoctoral research fellow in the departments of Environmental Health and Epidemiology at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, a number of toxic heavy metals are present in Jamaica’s soil, water and food especially in bauxite mining areas. These include arsenic, chromium, cadmium, zinc, copper, mercury, uranium and lead. According to studies, Lalor 1996; Johnson et al, 1996 the level of lead in Jamaican soil is more than four times the global average (44mg/kg compared to 10 mg/kg).

The Way Forward

As a society we need revisit the subject of recycling and disposal of waste, in particular the burring of waste, which releases dioxins and several heavy metals in the air. In many cases our response to these critical areas of recycling and waste disposal, put us at unnecessary risk to exposure to lead. Developing societies tend to ignore environmental matters for the sake of economic expansion and investment. However, we must realize that an unhealthy population will not be able to enjoy the successes of economic growth. More research on the long term impact of lead exposure from the local medical community is urgently needed, especially in light in the growing number of Jamaican children who are now being diagnosed with behavioural difficulties and learning challenges. It would be useful to know how many children die annually from the effects of lead poisoning in Jamaica and identify the areas of highest concentration of exposure of lead poisoning. A          few years ago there was a major concern regarding lead in pencils and crayons used primarily by children. There is an urgent need for the society to conduct a study on the areas surrounding the landfill at Riverton City as well as other landfills to ascertain the impact if any of lead poisoning on those children. This is critical since much of the lead in global commerce is obtain from recycling. We should be mindful that lead can be found in paints as well as in crayons and pencil.

We need to safeguard the future of our country by ensuring that our children are protected from exposure to lead poisoning. Exposure to lead also impacts the health of adults, including increased risk of high blood pressure and kidney damage. Pregnant women are also at risk for miscarriages, premature birth and stillbirth from exposure to lead poisoning. Exposure to lead poisoning is clearly a public health concern and the necessary resources must be found to tackle this problem. The society needs to formulate guidelines on the prevention and management of lead poisoning. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), lead exposure in 2013 accounted for 853,000 deaths, with the highest burden on low and middle income countries; this is unacceptable especially since lead poisoning is entirely preventable. We need to raise the awareness of exposure to lead poisoning to highlight the dangerous and often irreversible effects of lead poisoning. The health of a nation is paramount to the growth and development of that society. We should therefore be mindful that Goal 3, of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG’s) speaks to ensuring healthy lives and the promotion of the well-being for all at all ages. There cannot be sustainable development without a healthy population. In the words of Nelson Mandela, there can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

@WayneCamo, waykam@yahoo.com

&

Emma Lewis is a writer and social activist

@Petchary, petchary@gmail.com

Pan-Africanism & Socialization

The average Jamaican is seemingly not concerned about issues relating to Pan-Africanism. This was evident in the low turnout at a recently held Pan-African public symposium at the University of the West Indies. Despite, a population of more than 90 per cent African ancestry, a significant percentage of the populace do not view themselves as descendants of Africans or Afro-Jamaicans. This separation and arguably denial of our history is largely due to how the society has been cultured and schooled. To a large extent the society pays little attention to our historical grounding and this lack of historical significance is demonstrated in the in the growing number of our young men and women who bleach their skin. It bears thought that for many of us a sense of self and personhood is the missing link between believing in our own sense of self and how we fit into and contribute productively to the society. Additionally, the issue of poor self-esteem exhibit by some of our students’ stems in part to an education system in which History is optional at the secondary level. A significant number of students shy away from the subject. It can be argued that the society’s level of black consciousness is largely dormant, added to this the education system in part fosters this quiescent attitude. On Friday, May 26, 2017, the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work in collaboration with the UWI Pan-African Consortium of the University of the West Indies, Mona, hosted an African Liberation Day Symposium. The theme of the forum was “Peter Abrahams: A forgotten Pan-Africanist”. The presenters Professor Rupert Lewis, Dr. Michael Barnett, Dr. Shani Roper and veteran journalist, Earl Moxam all did a excellent job at discussing aspects of Peter Abraham’s life and work while making the connection to African Liberation Day which was commemorated a day earlier on Thursday, May 25. The presenters were excellent in highlighting how involved Peter Abrahams was in early years of the Pan Africanism movement. In fact, Abrahams was the last surviving member of the organizing committee of the Fifth- Pan African Congress held in 1945 at the time of his death in 2017.The turnout for such an important event was low, thus reinforcing the perception that the scholarship and activism surrounding Pan- Africanism is rooted mainly in the halls of academia. We should not fool ourselves; we are still on the plantation. What we now have are new colonial masters, very much steep in the Anglo-Saxon culture, far removed from our historical journey and socialization. We must remember that many decisions which affect our daily lives are made in European or North America even though we political independent. Despite the progress we have made as a society and as individuals, it can be argued that collectively we are still shackled in this era of neo-colonialism, chained by institutions and processes which are Eurocentric in nature and scope. Professor Rupert Lewis argued that fiction writing and journalism were central to Pan-Africanism as embraced by Abrahams. Professor Lewis was also concerned about the sociology of the elderly. He added that the elderly are at particular risk to criminal violence. The society was shocked and outraged recently at the rape and murder of 88 year old, Nettie Rowe, of Runaway Bay, St. Ann. Regrettably, Abrahams himself fell victim to the level of violence which targets the old and vulnerable in the society on January 18, 2017 at age 97. Dr. Michael Barnett, bemoaned the fact that so few outlets are available for Pan-Africanism in the media landscape. It must be noted that while we commemorated African Liberation Day, we are mindful that many of our African leaders have plundered the coffers of their respective countries and in a sense have caged their own people resulting in the continent of Africa not realizing its full potential. The time is now to revisit and recast a new vision of Pan-Africanism in order to move our people of African descent to that level where entrepreneurship becomes the engine of growth and advancement. Pan-Africanism is an ideology and movement which promote and support solidarity of Africans globally. We all need to get involved in some form of advocacy and activism in order to keep the awareness of black pride and consciousness alive. In the prophetic and powerful words of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, a race that is solely dependent upon another for economic existence sooner or later dies.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

#elderly #panafricanism #blackconsciousness #ideology #activism #advocacy #racism #MarcusGarvey

School Leadership Lacking

“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality”- Warrren Bennis

Leadership is not easy. It is often said, uneasy lies the head which wears the crown. After years of poor and ineffective school leadership The National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) was established in 2011 to develop excellence in educational leadership and school management. The lack of accountability and transparency at the level of principalship at both the primary and secondary levels is quite appalling and urgently needs attention. Undoubtedly, there are some principals and schools which are doing exceptional well in meeting the needs of their students. The focus and conversation however, should shift to those who are not despite the support and encouragement from stakeholders. In most instances principals across the educational landscape are more than qualified for their positions, however, holding the requisite qualification and the ability to effectively manage a school are worlds apart. In order to improve student outcome and to maximize the true potential of all students it takes more than having letters behind one’s name. A critical area where a lot of principals score poorly in is that of enabling an environment for effective teaching and learning. Too many of our schools are underperforming due primarily to the poor leadership in place. The 21st century education system must be meaningful for all learners. The weak structure of some School Boards and the manner in which School Board members are appointed leaves much to be desired. Unfortunately, in some schools, the Office of the principal and the Office of the School Board are blurred and compromised giving principals a free reign to do as they wish. The 2004 Task Force on Educational Reform serves as a platform to the modernization and transformation of Jamaica’s education system. As a result of the Task Force the Education System Transformation Programme (ESTP) was birthed to improve standards of performance and greater accountability of all levels of the education system. Regrettably, some of whom have the title of principal are shallow, void of integrity, vindictive and unworthy of such positions. Those principals who fall in such a category should be grateful daily to their luck and connections, since many are indebted to third parties whether political, religious or civic associations for the position they hold. In the interim, many students and teachers are held to ransom in the power play which takes place in many of our schools. Many excellent teachers become frustrated and this frustration as well as the high levels of stress is played out many times in the classroom while the teaching and learning experience is hijacked on an altar of cronyism and favoritism. Our children deserve better! Too many upstanding teachers leave the classroom yearly, abandoning their dreams and aspirations for the sake of peace of mind. Additionally, some principals who are aware of their limitations have purposefully ventured into building divisions among staff. Unfortunately, there are those in positions of principals who instead of building bridges in order to unite their staff in a spirit of collegiality choose to sow chords of mischief and hatred. It is unfortunate that the process of engagement some principals and their staff is non-existent. As a result many teachers are unaware of the School Improvement Plan (SIP) which outlines the expectation of individual teachers during the academic year. It bears thought that as a society we need to shun such individuals from all areas of leadership.

What is Self-Efficacy

Self-efficacy is also known as personal efficacy, and is defined as the confidence in one’s own skill sets to accomplish intended goals and assigned targets. Self-efficacy is situation specific and varies regarding the events in our lives. A principal’s sense of efficacy is an assessment of his or her capabilities to structure a specific course of action to improve student outcomes. According to Tschannen-Moran & Gareis (2004 the major influences on efficacy are assumed to be attributional analysis and interpretation of the four sources of efficacy information: mastery experience, physiological arousal, vicarious experience and verbal persuasion. It is quite likely and acceptable that a principal might feel secured in one area of leadership and rather inadequate in another area. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. Some principals are intrinsically motivated while others are not. Success in leadership is not a sprint but a marathon. The weak principal today may become the transformational leader within a few years. This cuts across the board for all who are in leadership positions.

Forging Ahead Towards a 21st Century Education System

In this age of accountability and transparency it is critical that we fast tracked the transformation process in order to have a 21st century education system. The society needs to demand more from our school leadership. It cannot be that principals with a track record of underachievement are given extension after reaching the retirement age. This is a bad and retrograde practice which has no place in the 21st century. The Education Act does not guarantee any extension to any principal upon retirement. Too many in the society who should know better are complicit in supporting ineffective school leadership. A rigorous discourse on way forward regarding how to improve the culture in many of our schools, as well as, in building professional trust is needed. For educator, Regie Routman professional trust means that teachers and leaders at a school can depend on each other’ that everyone on staff is fully committed to all students, and that ongoing, high-quality professional learning ensures that all teachers do an effective job”. As a nation we need to be adamant in our resolve that such principals are retired in the interest of the nation’s children and the country at large. We need to redouble our efforts in bringing back professionalism and honour to the position of principalship. Sadly, there are many principals whose words are meaningless and they have become a laughing stock among their peers. There are many principals who are not respected by their staff, parents and students, due mainly to their unprofessional and unethical ways.

The learner of the 21st century requires leadership which is both transformational and instructional. The fruits of a transformed education system hinge itself on the quality of leadership in place in our schools. We need to recapture the mould of principals of yesteryear who were role models and mentors for both their students and the wider community. It can and must be done as education is the only way Jamaica will pull herself up and out of the crisis the society is grappling with. We should be reminded that untruths and fear are not qualities that build a school, nor fosters a culture of excellence. Distressingly, too many principals lack the motivation to inspire their staff; too many see their role primarily as perfunctory, disregarding the need to build relationships with stakeholders to enhance the teaching and learning journey. School leadership is not a responsibility for those who do not have a love for teachers. The time is now for the society to reclaim their collective voices in denouncing ineffective school leadership to safeguard the well being of the nation’s most vulnerable asset, that of our children. Educational equity is a right not a privilege!

In the words of Robert John Meehan educational leadership is about letting go the urge to control others and holding on to the purpose of setting them free.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

#leadership #education #school #principalship #Jamaica #sustainabledevelopment

Wagering on France’s next President

“Ideas govern the world, or throw it into chaos”- Auguste Comte

The global tide of populism sweeping across much of Europe and to a lesser extent the North American continent continues to reverberate throughout much of the capitals of Europe. The centrist and relatively newcomer to French politics, Emmanuel Macron, and the far-right and rather polarizing politician Marine Le Pen have both have made it through to the run-off election to choose the next president of France. Le Pen is controversial for many reasons. Le Pen’s core principles are steeped in an anti-globalization, anti-immigration and anti-European Union mould and have found favour among a significant percentage of the French electorate. It can be argued that many French citizens are disillusioned by the traditional political parties and are quite fearful of the future. The on-going political instability in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, which has subsequently led to a refugee crisis, have provided much fuel to the notion of nationalism and have nurtured a culture of France for the French. The recent attacks on Paris, as well as, on other European capitals by terrorist groups have also led to a growing spirit of nationalism throughout France and Europe. Disturbingly, the uncertainty of the future has given rise in incidents of anti-Semitism not only in France but across much of Europe. This trend has become rather unsettling for the Jewish communities in these countries, especially for France which has the largest Jewish population in Europe at around 500, 000 strong.

Origin of the European Union

The European states began to unite in the 1950’s after catastrophic world wars. The Schuman Declaration led to the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) of 1952 was the first effort to coalesce European states in the 20th century. The European Union, (EU) came into being after the Maastricht treaty, formally, the Treaty on European Union or (TEU), was signed on February 7, 1992 by members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands. The European Union (EU) is a unified trade and monetary body of 28 member countries, this number will reduce to 27, after the United Kingdom leaves the EU following Brexit. It is noteworthy that the EU eliminates all border control between members, as the Schengen Area guarantees free movement to those legally residing within its border. The people of France are at a crossroads. The paths are clear, retreat and give into fear and insularity or pursue the route of engagement and a having a meaningful global presence.

Gender and Politics

France has never had a female president. Some posited the view that Le Pen’s rise in the National Front Party is as a consequence of her father, the founder of the National Front party not having a male heir. Le Pen by not having a brother benefited from this fact, nonetheless the world patiently awaits the results to see whether or not she will create history. Is Le Pen gender a liability in this presidential election? The culture in France is very much chauvinistic and driven by a sense of phallocentrism much more than other countries within the European Union. France undoubtedly has a hyper- masculine culture steeped in patriarchy. The ego of French male is not easily soothed and this unquestionably will prevent a significant number of men from giving support for a female to become head of the State. France still has a very far way to go in breaking the class ceiling. Interestingly, all the leaders of the main political parties in France have urged their supporters to back Macron. In fact, former President Barack Obama has also given his support to Macron to succeed Francois Hollande as the next president of France. In spite of the comparison to Joan of Arc, Le Pen’s path to the presidency will take a miracle for her to overcome and defeat Macron on May, 7, 2017. The National Party has had a history of anti-Semitism and racism and it will be quite interesting how the intersection of race and religion affects the outcome of the presidential elections.

On the issue of gender equality, it must be noted that France adopted gender equality rather late compared to their European counterparts. Additionally, France’s strong religious association to Roman Catholicism and the country’s focus on the family instead of the individual are factors which have contributed greatly to gender inequality. Female participation in politics still remains as a major concern with regards to gender equality. According to data supplied by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), France has a 25.8 per cent female participation in politics. Despite having had a female Prime Minister in Edith Cresson, women have long been underrepresented in French politics. French women became eligible to vote since 1944. On June 28, 1999, articles 3 &4 of the French constitution were amended. The law promoting equal access to men and women to elected office was adopted on June 6, 2000. It is rather ironic and unsettling that France lags behind their European neighbours regarding gender equality, despite having given the world feminist icons such as Simone de Beauvoir. The French culture continues to resonate with a high degree of sexism and will not change anytime soon. “Men are viewed here as a social group active in changing or maintaining the social inferiorisation of women, rather from the standpoint of recomposed masculine identity or forms of masculinity”. (Devreux 2007).

France’s political establishment has been hit hard by Macron, who is often compared to Obama and Trudeau for his youthfulness. Macron’s meteoric rise has been rather amazing and time will tell if he becomes the next president. His political party En Marche, formed last year has generated a movement like culture which many believe will usher him into the Elysee Palace come May 7. There has been a rejection of traditional old style politics and this dismissal will be played out in many more elections to come, many more surprise presidents and prime ministers are lurking in the wings. The world saw last year Donald Trump, a rather unconventional businessman turned politician becoming president of the United States of America. While the world anxiously awaits the outcome of the French presidential elections we are told not to wager on a female presidency. The French society is divided and as such the next president of France will need to embark on a programme to try and to mend fences and bridge the political divide after a bruising election. The way forward for France must include a closer interpretation and implementation of Sustainable Development Goal number 5 which speak to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Marine Le Pen would have inspired an entire generation of girls not only in France but also the international community. One’s gender should never be a barrier to any achievement especially in 2017. In the words of the French philosopher Voltaire, the true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it. Au Revoir!

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

http://www.wayaine.blogspot.com

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

#France #racism #gender #politics #religion #masculinity #sustainabledevelopment #Brexit #Europe #Immigration #refugee #feminism #globalization #populism

Sometimes The Face of Depression Is In Your Mirror

“I can’t remember the last time I was happy. I have never been happy for 24 hours straight, ever in my life”. These are the words of ‘Paul’, a forty year old university graduate who has been battling depression for most of his adult life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 300 million people living with depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015. The WHO states that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Depression is just one of the many common mental disorders that affect a significant percentage of the Jamaican population. Data shows that 1 in every 4 Jamaicans will experience some form of mental disorder throughout hi/her lifetime. Depression can begin just about any age and can have serious implications for the depressed person as well as for his/her family. Nonetheless there is a distinction to be made between the daily emotional challenges of life and the short-lived sadness which are a direct response to such stresses. Recently, Paul and I sat down in Kingston for our discussion. Paul is approximately 5 feet 6 inches, a rather unassuming man. Paul vividly recalls not wanting to attend school in grade 6. While many of us can fondly remember our days in primary school which was characterized by a state of happiness and excitement at the thought of attending high school; the opposite was true for Paul, his life of depression was just beginning to take root and would haunt him ever since. Paul’s tone changed from one of eagerness to one of subdued caution as he brought to mind the many days of feeling sad during his primary school days. “I felt like I just had to deal with it, there was nuttin I could do, I couldn’t fight so I just dealt with it. I didn’t know I could tell my parents, even if I did I am sure they would not have done nuttin”. In dealing with depression at an early age of 12 years, Paul said “I just went to school and did my school work the best way I could”.

Persons who are depressed do not walk around with a placard announcing this fact. The face of depression is that face that looks back at you when you look in the mirror. Depressed people look like you and me. Many depressed persons manage to hold down a job while fighting the demon of depression. Sadly, not many depressed persons have been so diagnosed. Paul, however, was diagnosed with depression in his 20’s. The stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness often serves as barriers to treatment. These hurdles frequently prevent those who experience the symptoms from getting medical intervention necessary to adequately manage this medical condition. In many instances our association with mental health comes from seeing an insane person on the road eating from a garbage bin. This perception of mental illness needs to be interrogated and brought into reality that a vast number of mental disorder persons do not live like this. Whether we choose to believe or not, in every family there is at least one depressed individual.

Symptoms of Depression

The American Psychiatry Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM -5) defines depression as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act. Depression is known to be caused by an aberration of neuro-chemicals (serotonin norepinephrine) in the brain. The symptoms of depression identified by DSM- 5: are depressed mood most of the day characterized by sadness, emptiness or hopelessness; irritability or frustration, lost of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as hobbies, sleep disturbances, whether increase or decrease sleep, frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, trouble thinking, concentrating or remembering things, fatigue or loss of energy every day, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt nearly every day, significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain. DSM-5 indicates that if you have 5 or more of these symptoms, one of which must include either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in activities then you should seek medical attention. Paul is no exception to the rule and during the talk; Paul mentioned having suicidal thoughts on a number of occasions. He spoke candidly about the desire to die in a car accident. He has come to the realization that his driving has become reckless in recent times when he is alone. He stated that his appetite is not what it used to be. He has lost interest in food which is another common symptom of clinical depression. Paul said that the depression has worsened as he has gotten older. He is now forced to write down all he needs to do daily as the depression has affected his concentration and memory. A lack of interest in most things around him is yet another sign of depression which Paul has and continues to experience. Paul is often up late into the night, he has difficulty falling and or staying asleep. This sleep disturbance is also a typical symptom of depression. This inability to sleep or insomnia is a typical symptom of depression. According to Paul, there is usually a trigger for his depression. His lifelong phobia of public speaking is one such. University was challenging for Paul especially when it came around for him to do class presentations, he remembers painfully getting a C minus for Communication Task in university. A simple unavailability of public parking space is another of his triggers. In addition, Paul who identifies himself as a gay man finds his sexual orientation a significant causative factor for his depression. The concern about his financial standing and loneliness are also triggers of depression for Paul. He added that he would love to be in a relationship, to have someone to vent his ideas with, and to cheer him up.

Lacking Support Services

Paul bemoans the fact that there are not enough public health facilities in Jamaica to address the needs and concerns of those who are living with depression. He recalls that the doctor who diagnosed him as being depressed referred to him to a psychiatrist. He visited the facility on three occasions and was unable to see the psychiatrist despite having an appointment. Paul added that while there are more professionals in the private sector to treat depression and mental illness, the cost associated with seeing a psychiatrist can be prohibitive for the average Jamaican. It has become quite common for Paul to be stressed daily for up to two to three weeks at a time.

The Way Forward

Paul needs help! He ended our conversation by saying he often thinks about jumping off the roof. In spite of those frightening and poignant words, there are many success stories regarding life after depression. Some chronically depressed persons complain of feeling worse when they take the medication, this was also Paul’s experience; as a result he rarely takes his anti-depressant medication. This side effect of feeling worse can be addressed by the physician’s re-evaluation of the medication and making the appropriate changes. The way forward must include an approach which will address the psychological, medical, spiritual, social and emotional needs of the person struggling with mental disorder. Interestingly, he admits that the spiritual side of his life needs attention. Paul finds some pleasure in gardening and watching old television series such as, “Matlock”, “Murder She Wrote”. “The different mood swings that I have, my moods change quickly and often, maybe I am bipolar, that is why I need the doctor” “Five years I could have my own company and I hope by then I can beat my depression state or learn how to control it. I don’t see myself married with children and white picket fence kinda life. I know and accept I will be alone”. Depression is an illness like any other medical condition and need the attention of those trained to treat it. The consensus in the field of mental health is that the best treatment is medication plus therapy.

Here are some somber, confirming words of Adam Ant: I have suffered from depression for most of my life. It is an illness.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo

#DepressionLetsTalk

#WorldHealthDay

Easter Sunday

Jamaica over the years despite a move towards secularism still maintains a strong Judeo-Christian culture in which Jamaicans of all walks of life attend church at least twice per year, Easter and Christmas Sundays. Easter is often a time of personal reflection, as well as, spiritual rebirth and bears great significance for Christians worldwide. Today, being Easter Sunday, many Jamaican attended church of various denominations. The sermon today was preached by Pastor Roy Notice. The theme was: The Irresistible Message of the Empty Grave. According to Pastor Notice, there are four critical messages of the Empty Tomb which we must consider and remember at all times. In the first instance, the empty tomb conquers our doubts and fears as Christians and reinforces in us that death will not have the final say. Jesus Christ overcame the grave and the empty tomb and by his resurrection we too have that hope that those of us who die in Christ will also triumph over death and the grave. Secondly, the Empty Tomb conveys the Truth that evil will not win. The real power standing on resurrection power does not negotiate with evil. There is no compromise or middle ground once you are serving the true and living God. The Bible says it best; greater is He that is within us than he that is in the World. We need to spend more time in the Word of God to tend to our daily spiritual needs. The third message of the Empty Tomb is that it confirms the message that the Word of God is true. Jesus is the personification of the Resurrection. Some might be unaware of the term personification. Simply put, personification is a literary device which presents an inanimate object, idea or concept as though it were a person with human qualities and feelings. In other words, a thing or object is given a human characteristic because of some similarity between the thing and the person. Finally, the message of the Empty Tomb serves as a platform on which we should continue the message of Jesus Christ. As Christians we are empowered and tasked with continuing to spread the word of the Gospel. According to Joshua 1:9 “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” On this Easter Sunday, I wish for you and your family a Holy and Blessed Easter. I encourage you to spend some quality time to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15

#EasterSunday #ResurrectionSunday

waykam@yahoo.com

@WayneCamo