SPEAKING OUT! – A STUDENT’S TAKE ON THE RECENT ACTS OF VIOLENCE IN SCHOOLS IN JAMAICA
By Kubi-Ayana Walters (6th form student of St Andrew High School for Girls)
Kingston, JA: Since the beginning of this academic year, the the Jamaica Prefects’ Association, formerly, the National Head Prefects’ Association has observed numerous violent acts occurring in our schools nationwide. Arguably, each recurring act becoming more violent and brazen in nature. In response, the organisation has recently launched a #GOEASYNUH Campaign in all schools to charge students responsibility for their actions not only in the school community but also the wider society. We feel the campaign is timely as Jamaica observes Peace Day on the 3rd of March and the organisation recognises March as its “Prefects’ Month” with a National Prefects’ Conference scheduled to address issues that affect our students daily.
Firstly, I suggest that the Government of Jamaica seeks help from other countries – in regards to methods that are effective in their public schools to discipline students. However, it must be kept in mind, that not every method is suitable to the Jamaican classroom, and therefore I believe it should be reviewed carefully with organisations like the Jamaica Principals & Vice Principals Association or Jamaica Teachers’ Association as well as student-led organisations such as the JPA before being passed into law.
Secondly, we must acknowledge that teenagers are dropping out of school to raise children. How are these teenaged parents going to instil values such as discipline or self-control when they themselves have not fully matured as individuals? Additionally, students are sleep-deprived! Students who are constantly exposed to noisy elements and volatile environments at nights – forced to complete homework assignments, projects, studying. This too affects our students’ mental wellbeing. They are on edge, unable to enjoy a simple activity such as watching television without being shot or having the dance along to the vulgar lyrics spewed from boom boxes.
Lastly and most importantly, our students are hungry! Very cynically, I am forced to agree with the Snickers Tag line, “You’re not you, when you’re hungry”. Many students go to school without breakfast or dinner, lunch often being the only meal that they consume. How do they cope on the weekends or holidays when school is not in session? Mind you, the Government has offered solutions – the PATH programme and the Jamaica Moves Initiative in schools. Let’s be realistic, are these programmes covering every student in need? Maybe the criteria for the PATH programme needs to be reviewed to facilitate a larger number of students – and in retrospect, do we have the resources to accomate this increasing demand? How do you expect students to be well-behaved and disciplined when they literally have food for thoughts?
About Kubi-Ayana Walters
I am the Public Relations Officer for the Jamaica Prefects’ Association as well as a selected Youth Parliamentarian. I am a Grade 13 student who attends the St. Andrew High School for Girls in St. Andrew, Jamaica. I am also a Senior Prefect, the Vice President for the Modern Languages Club, Secretary for my school house Stockhausen, Treasurer for the Fitness Club, Assistant Secretary for the Sixth Form Association, a Student Library Assistant, the Assistant Treasurer for the Jamaica Moves – SAHS Chapter and a member of the school’s swimming team. Until recently, I also play the piano.
About the Jamaica Prefects’ Association
Formerly, the National Head Prefects’ Association which was started by then head boy of the Jamaica College, Carlos Gordon as well as the then Minister of Education, Youth & Information, Hon. Andrew Holness. The Jamaica Prefects’ Association was relaunched in 2018 by David Salmon after a decade-long hiatus. As of August 2019, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information officially recognised JPA under the umbrella of the Ministry. It has been designed as such an organisation “by the students for the students” with the aim of coordinating prefectures from across Jamaica which would promote effective leadership. To maximise impact, the JPA is sub-categorised into six (6) regions. Region 1 covers Kingston and St. Andrew, Region 2 – St. Thomas, Portland and St. Mary, Region 3 – St. Ann and Trelawny, Region 4 – St. James, Westmoreland and Hanover, Region 5 – St. Elizabeth and Manchester and lastly, Region 6 – Clarendon and St. Catherine. In addition to simply coordinating prefects, we are responsible for all public secondary-level students and as a result, there is an activity specific to every region’s holistic development.