Reading has been on the decline in the Jamaican society and in particularly in many of the nation’s schools for quite a while. We live in a world and indeed a society where cultural norms are changing almost daily. As the technology develops more and more of our students are acquiring the latest gadgets and in the process leaving little or no time for recreational reading. Many of our students and adults alike have what is obviously an obsession with listening to music mainly of a specific genre. It has become a rarity to see a student or adult reading a novel and or text in our public spaces. The declining rate in literacy is more pronounced at the secondary level of the education system. This fall in reading level can be attributed to among other factors the non existence of a standardized national literacy test at the secondary level of the education system.
What is required is a monumental and radical shift by the nation’s policy makers to encourage more of our students to read. We need to examine the possibility of including a Grade Seven Literacy Test (GSLT) and or a Grade Eight Literacy Test (GELT) in the national curriculum. This will provide the impetus and motive all stakeholders to do more in improving the literacy scores of our students.
There is an urgent need to for us constantly access and monitor our students. Additionally, we need to develop policies that emerge from empirical data to improve the educational outcome of our students and also the education system.
In establishing a national literacy test at the secondary level we would be able to track the progress or lack thereof of each student. The fact that each student already has a profile by the time he/she reaches the secondary level would make this process easier. This would make it quite easy to make a comparison of the student’s score on their Grade Four Literacy Test; this score could then be compared to the scores attained in later literacy tests done by each student. Appropriate remedial work could then be done to address the needs of specific students. Our literacy specialists would benefit greatly since they would have additional knowledge to carry out their mandate as they work with their students.
It is foolhardy to think that an increase in literacy specialists is tantamount to improving reading levels. We need an infusion of all subject teachers to do more reading in the content area. We also need to reduce the student/teacher ratio in our schools to manageable levels where teachers can be more effective in working with challenged students. For example, having one reading specialist to a class of thirty (30) students will not achieve the desired outcome of improving reading levels of all pupils. Each student requires individual attention.
The major obstacle to Jamaica’s progress and development is the breakdown of family life. There are too many splintered families in the society. Yes the times are challenging and the resources of the State are limited, however, there is an urgent need for educators to do more. We need to redouble our efforts to incorporate the use of authentic forms of literacy, such as, close reading, analysis, discussion and writing to improve the reading outcome of our students. While we are unable to slow the pace of the ever changing technology, we must explore all possibilities to raise the levels of literacy in our nation’s schools.
Splintered Family is a term coined by the author Wayne Campbell to describe a family type in which the head of the family changes rapidly to coincide with the prevailing circumstances of that family. For example, an older sibbling is head of the household at a given moment, the next moment an aunt/uncle or even an older friend of the family becomes the provisional head of the family structure. It is the absence of any sustained and responsible adult supervision.The term also refers to a family type in which there is no obvious head of the household.
Global warming and climate change should be everybody,s business. The sheer destruction, death and subsequent displacement of hundreds of St Vicentians by flood rain on Christmas Eve of 2013 is not only heart rending but should spur the region to pay more attention to matters of the envirnonment. We all saw the images of the aftermath of super-typhoon Haiyan which devastated parts of the Philippines in 2013.These two events should serve as a catalyst for the Caribbean to move ahead with a sense of urgency to find lasting and meaningful solutions to issues of global warming and climate change. Extreme, unusual and irregular weather patterns have been attributed to global warming and the Caribbean as a region is not immune to such occurrences. Despite not having a hurricane for 2013 Atlantic hurricane season Jamaica was unusually hot for the better part of last year.The massive typhoon which hit the Philippines was one of the most powerful ever on record, with winds exceeding 200 kilometers per hours. Some estimates have placed some 10,000 deaths in one village alone with the figure expected to increase as government officials’ access difficult terrain.
It is rather ironic that the typhoon hit the Philippines on the same day that the United Nations began talks on Climate change and its Impact in Warsaw, Poland. The United Nations has a target of limiting global average warming to two degree Celsius over pre-industrial Revolution levels and this can be achieved by curbing emissions of invisible, heat trapping gases from burning fossils fuels which sadly is the backbone of the world’s energy supply. However, as emerging world powers seeks cheaper and less sufficient energy sources such as coal in order to bolster their economy it is clear than an collaborative is required from both industrialized societies as well as small and emerging economies. Jamaica is currently midway through implementing phase 2 of a US$25 million Strategic Programme for Climate Resilience (SPCR). This initiative seeks to boost government led efforts to strength Jamaica’s ability to withstand the damaging effort of climate-related occurrences such as a hurricane. Successive governments have not always paid sufficient attention to matters of the environment and as a consequence the devastating effects have been felt by many who have lost loved ones as well as property due to government lax building codes and their inability or refusal to monitor greedy developers who in the past have been allowed to construct homes in well- known river beds and sell these to unsuspecting and desperate clients. The heart rending images appearing on television and other social media after the aftermath of super typhoon and the flood rains in St.Vincent should serve as a reminder of the cost of inaction on climate change. Many lives have been uprooted by this act of nature; adults and children alike are hungry and homeless. One can clearly see a sense of hopelessness and despair on the faces of the survivors as they search for food and meaning in the rubbles around them. We all need to be reminded that any disturbance to nature and the environment will have catastrophic consequences and that the popular and unwise decisions we take today usually come back to negatively haunt the next generation.
Jamaica has suffered from the devastating impact of hurricanes. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan killed 17 Jamaicans and left damages totaling some US$360 Million. Four years later in 2008 Hurricane Gustav impacted Jamaica with a recovery bill of some US$210 Million. Yet some of our people continue to destroy the environment by cutting down trees and as well as by building their homes on the banks of gullies. We must continue our public relations campaigns to inform those among us who do not know any better of the negative and long lasting implications of tampering with nature and the environment. Let us be reminded that there can be no sustainable development without first protecting the environment to think or do otherwise is retrograde.
Let us remember our brothers and sisters in the Philippines and in the Caribbean as they rebuild their lives and move forward. From the initial assessments done this effort will take millions of dollars of aid and many years to complete the recovery process.
While some of us might still be in doubt as to whether or not climate change caused the super cyclone in the Philippines let us err on the side of caution and learn from others and do what we can do to safeguard ourselves in this ever changing world. Is there a coordinated regional plan to deal with matters such as hurricanes, earthquake and massive flood rains? Is there a National Policy on Climate Change and Global Warming?
If no, the time is far overdue for such policies. We must include in such a policy a focus on coastal towns, for example, Portmore, areas of St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary. Are we prepared in Jamaica for the consequences of a storm surge should a hurricane trigger such an occurrence? The time is now for us to move swiftly and decisively in order to seriously address the issues of climate change and global warming even amidst our economic constraints.
Standing in the hallowed hallway of the college of my choice
Beaming with pride and joy
Anxious and somewhat frightened, what was I thinking
Is a college degree worth the sacrifice, I repeatedly asked myself
I took the bait, hook line and sinker
To this fallacy, created by the movers and shakers of this cruel world
To keep us in line
Maintaining the status quo in order to stifle our creativity
Why didn’t I see this coming?
To be counted among the vocational areas was to be considered
Intellectually challenged, dull! Dunce!
If only I knew then what I know now.
Fast forward to 2014
Downtrodden, a grave sense of despair and hopeless
Trapped! Rocked by the insecurities of this world
Governments held to ransom
By multinational lending agencies
Structural Adjustment Programmes designed to keep us dependent and the poor get poorer while the rich wallow in ill- gotten gains
Our humanity have been stripped bare
Exposing our backsides for the entire world to see
No one really cares
Where is the future?
Hope and optimism vanish away in thin air
Living in a world where qualification and experience play second fiddle
It is who knows you that matters
Don’t be silly
Yet another interview