Wed | Jun 19, 2024

Lascelve Graham | There but for the grace of God go I

Published:Tuesday | May 21, 2024 | 12:06 AM
Representational image of children in a classroom.
Representational image of children in a classroom.
Lascelve Graham
Lascelve Graham
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In the week of April 14, some school children were once again involved in scandalous brawls at the Transport Centre in Half-Way Tree and elsewhere. A video showed a young man lift up a bicycle and forcefully ram it on to another student. Boys kicked another who was on the ground all over his body. One boy was stabbed and others injured. Shortly thereafter, two Meadowbrook girls were shown fighting viciously. In another incident, an Irwin High student was fatally stabbed. And it goes on and on and on.

Of course, there were the usual utterances of indignation, holding of head, and gnashing of teeth coming from those in authority. I am sure very strong action, as it must, will be taken against those who can be identified from the videos. However, I wonder if it is not a case where we have failed our youngsters, and are, once again, just blaming the victims. Children learn what they live. They are products of their environment. As Peter Tosh said, ”You can’t blame the youth.”

We have had these outbursts often with our children being involved in crass, crude, violent behaviour, fights, even murder at school. We have had violence manifest itself even around school sports, which should be about peace and love! Our children need help, not just punishment!

SOCIALISATION CRISIS

Our leadership needs to acknowledge that we have a socialisation CRISIS in Jamaica and take the difficult but necessary actions to deal with it. Our leadership must huddle with social scientists and other experts in the field of behavioural change, listen to them and take action, drastic, if necessary!

It must be a NATIONAL effort, led by the prime minister, who must set the tone! Putting out fires here and there, covering up, taking palliative measures and mouthing platitudes just hasn’t and won’t work! It will require GREAT, consistent, leadership to turn the socialisation ship around, bearing in mind that the political leadership is critical in this regard. Will our leaders step up to the plate? It must be all hands on deck.

As has been said repeatedly, and rightly so, the family plays a major role in the socialisation of our youth. However, families in Jamaica, by and large, are deficient, stressed, stretched, overwhelmed. Just exhorting our parents (parent) to do the right thing, as happens each time there is unsavoury behaviour, won’t cut it. They need education, training, help. Fixing the family is a very long-term project.

The other main socialising agent of society is the school. Our leadership has full control of our schools. Hence, it is more reasonable to endeavour to get positive short- to medium-term outcomes through our schools. In this regard, our schools need to be given the wherewithal (funding, training, etc.) to act as better surrogate parents from the early childhood stage onward. Key life skills like conflict resolution, attitudes, and communication must be added to the curriculum. These would be reinforced by co-curricular activities.

MADE AWARE

Our schools also need to be made more aware of their important socialisation function and that they are part of an education/socialisation SYSTEM. It is not each man for himself and the devil takes the hindmost as seems to be the case now! The action of each has a ripple effect throughout the system.

One of the signals that our schools will have significantly changed, are aware of and take seriously their critical socialising role,will be how they treat with co-curricular activities. Every little bit counts. If they understand that co-curricular activities (including sports) are an integral part of students’ holistic education and that they are a key means to inculcate moral values, develop competencies, and at the same time foster social integration and deepen students’ sense of belonging and responsibility towards their community and country, THEN we will see a whole different approach to co-curricular activities, including sports, by our schools.

Gone will be the win-at-all costs approach to sports by our public schools along with recruiting for sports by schools. The focus will be on helping to socialise into the best citizen he or she can be all who have earned their place as a member of that school cohort, whether nerd or sports star. Our public schools will be looking, at last, at the bigger picture, at our national well-being.

This will help tremendously to unleash the power of sports (co-curricular activity) as a behavioural-change agent. Sports can be and is a transformational vehicle, a rejuvenator, a place of refuge, a soother, a comforter for many of the battered egos and low self-esteems. Sports ministers to the spirit thus generating confidence and self-belief, which are pivotal to hope, new attitudes, new energies, new evaluations, new approaches, new conclusions, new outcomes, new beginnings – behaviour modification.

Many of our most challenged youngsters are very interested in, skilled at, enthusiastic about, and voluntarily participate in some sporting activity. The probability, therefore, of capturing their imagination, changing their thinking and behaviour through sports is greater than through many other avenues. Therefore, the teaching of life skills and the counselling of youngsters so that they are better able to cope with the challenges of their lives have a greater chance of success if twinned as seamlessly as possible with the teaching and practising of sports skills.

There needs to be a change in emphasis with respect to the role of sports in our schools. The behavioural, emotional, social aspects of sports must be given, at least, the same importance as the technical. The role of sports in our public schools is different to the role of sports in sports academies, clubs. Remember: our children are products of their environment. We need to change our social environment and school is a critical agent in this change process.

Dr Lascelve ‘Muggy’ Graham is a former captain of Manning, All-Manning, All-Schools and All-Jamaica football teams. Send feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com