Letters & Opinion

Teachers Day 2022 – New Thinking, Teaching and Training with Old Books, Bags and Backpacks…

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Today, October 5, is being observed internationally as World Teachers Day, which, in 2022, is different to all celebrated since the United Nations and UNESCO first dedicated this day in 1994.

The theme is ‘The Transformation of Education Begins With Teachers’ – and (once again) it’s an effort to embrace one teachers everywhere can relate to.

But in this case, I have my doubts about its effectiveness because the theme is only a reminder of the obvious, which no teacher can forget, far less ignore, as this is their vocation – to teach and educate.

But while observing today in different ways, let’s hope Saint Lucian and Caribbean teachers take some time-off to reflect on being called upon to, or are actually supporting (realizing or not, willing or unintentionally) depriving students their inalienable and protected right to education – and just because of how they their hair looks, or how their parents decide to comb or not comb them, or because they wear dreadlock hairstyles — even with parents’ blessings…

Saint Lucia and the few other CARICOM nations in the news last month for schools refusing to allow students entry on the first day of school because of their hair cannot be looking or sounding normal in the eyes of the rest of the world today, when a student has to go to get permission from a court to attend class, when parents have to hire lawyers and resort to the law to get their children to enter the same schools they attended last year.

And as I’ve often repeated, outdated rules will always be broken – and any law that bans any child from an education simply because of how they look in the eyes of teachers or principals, is not just outdated but simply has no place in today’s society.

I mean, teachers have more to think and worry about if they don’t have enough to celebrate today…

The Prime Minister’s announced and repeated plan to take Kweyol to school alongside Caribbean and African History ought to be challenging enough to have ignited conversations among teachers about such ideas that would fundamentally change the syllabus – and to urge them to ask the education planners and curriculum developers why, despite the island’s top tertiary-level institution being named after Sir Arthur Lewis, his works are not given priority in local classrooms.

Teachers lead the way, but students and parents have as much stake in ensuring development of appropriate curricula that change with and adapt to time, unlike the old and continuing system that ties our children’s education to textbooks by traditional colonial international publishers that have simply modified colonial accounts of Caribbean history.

Instead, we have publishers inviting principals to ‘exhibitions’ of ‘new books’ for old subjects that, when adopted, result in making it more difficult for students whose parents can’t afford new books to inherit, purchase or swap old ones.

I was as taken aback as most who saw it when, on DBS Street Vibes report on the second day of school, a distraught parent complained of having to go to the Ministry of Education for answers because she’d purchased the textbook — as stated on the Book List supplied — only to be told on the first day of school that she’d bought ‘the wrong book’ – despite having bought the title listed.

The complaining mother (naturally and with right) wanted to know who would refund her — and I was also wondering how many other parents of students in that same class, other classes, or other schools, could have had the same problem…

This was the first year that students and teachers returned to class ‘In Person’ and without masks — and with no more Online Classes and parents complaining about effects on their jobs and students complaining about missing teachers and friends, mothers accompanied their children to the school on the first day, by tradition, to get to know their child’s teacher, among other reasons.

The first school day today is still very much like it’s always been: students attending with new uniforms, shoes, books, bags and back-packs, anxious to make new friends, hoping for a ‘good teacher’ and looking forward to another year in class – and in many cases too, looking forward to one year less of having to study the same ‘boring’ subjects and doing the same things over-and-over-again, every school day…

Today’s teachers and principals everywhere have a challenge of leading the way in transforming the education system — by working with Education Ministries to make schooling more attractive and education more desirable than having to undertake as routine.

In many cases — but too-few in too-many places — the advent of Science and Technology and Information Technology (IT) revolutions have made learning easier, but only for those who can and are ready to engage with the new devices and the changing apps.

Teachers and parents tend to differ – mainly but not only — by generation in their interpretation of and relation to the changes involving introduction of IT to schooling and the pace of related change; and students, while able to keep-up with all the changes (and better than their teachers and parents), nonetheless end-up caught in a start-and-stop cycle that sees them one year using computers, another year using tablets – and nowhere close to the ultimate goal of introducing scientific and technological evolution into their thinking, teaching and learning.

And that’s why I have a problem with teachers and parents’ organisations – and school boards — reacting to the return of the age-old ‘hair’ issue at schools, as if it was something new, or a threat to health of students and teachers.

But these are just outdated responses to exposure of the continued existence of outdated laws in the education system by (ridiculously) claiming that denying students their right to education every day is somehow okay, because it’s about ‘enforcing discipline…’

Gimme a break…

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