Thu | Mar 30, 2023

Sick of shifts - Chang blames system for social ills

Published:Thursday | April 5, 2018 | 12:00 AMJanet Silvera/ Senior Gleaner Writer
Dr Horace Chang


Newly appointed Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang says that persons responsible for coming up with the shift system for primary and secondary schools should be "imprisoned" for doing a great disservice to the nation.

In a no-holds-barred presentation at a Ministry of National Security Stakeholders Forum for Community Intervention at the Iberostar Resort, St James, yesterday, Chang said that it was clear that very little thought had gone into imposing such an atrocity on the Jamaican people, adding that the disastrous results were plain for all to see.

"The only way to describe the shift system is to take out the 'f'," Chang noted. "The educators who imposed that on the people of Jamaica should have been imprisoned for dereliction of duty. I make no apologies for that. I don't care who did it ... or which Government. It was the worst thing to ever have been imposed on poor people. It was a criminal act!"

After a pilot conducted at Jones Town Primary and then Tarrant Junior Secondary, the shift system was formally implemented in Jamaica's education system in 1974 on the recommendation of a committee commissioned to do an in-depth study of primary education in Jamaica and chaired by the late Professor R.N. Murray.

The aim was to increase access to education, enabling schools to admit more pupils and to educate them in less-crowded conditions.

The system, however, has faced a mountain of criticism over the years, with the Ministry of Education now firmly committed to taking all schools off the shift system.

Chang was, however, in no mood to forgive, adding that the remnants of the shift system would have a lasting effect and would have led to many of the social ills facing the nation.

The minister added that what the shift system has accomplished is to leave many students, especially those from poor and volatile communities, with a lot of idle time on their hands, making them susceptible to all kinds of temptations that "have not always been positive".

"Nobody wants to be poor," Chang added. "All it is that people want is a fighting chance at life and an opportunity to succeed."

The minister noted that while social intervention was important, there must be a sustainable plan to ensure long-term success.

"If we give our young people the opportunities, they will capitalise on them ... . That I am convinced about," Chang further noted. "We can all make a difference. It is pointless having a wonderful agency, but if you are not reaching the people, it doesn't make any sense."

Chang added that from where he now sat as minister of national security, he would take a hands-on approach to work with the social agencies, pointing out and commending the Social Development Commission "for doing a great job and changing lives across Jamaica".

He also implored the audience to give the men and women that serve in the Jamaica Constabulary Force a chance, adding, "Let us begin to look at the basics ... change our attitudes ... change the way we look at things."