Education: Reversing a dangerous trend – Adam Harris

Education: Reversing a dangerous trend

Adam Harris

Adam Harris

The recent release of the Caribbean Human Development Report highlighted just about what everyone knows but pays little attention to. It talks about the vulnerable people in the society—the women, children and the elderly; it talks about child labour and places Guyana at the top of the pile; it talks about the movement of the economy.

One interesting point that is not common to Guyana is the fact that women are fast becoming the brains of the society. The finding shows that women are the people qualifying themselves and even doing better than their male counterparts.    

We have been seeing this trend for some time now and we have done nothing to have the boys match the girls. There is a simple reason for this. The boys have no male role models in the classrooms, so they pay less attention to their female teachers. At the same time, when boys go through whatever they go through, call it the call of the testosterone, the women are objects of challenge.

Of course, most will fail the test by the young men, so that tends to end the control and the beginning of the problems in the society. We see this a lot in the schools today. The young men go to school, learn precious little, then leave very ill-equipped to compete in the world of work.

Way back when I was in the Government Teachers’ Training College, most of the students were men. We went to schools and we controlled. Even as a schoolboy, most of the teachers were men. It was not astonishing that the society produced so many male professionals. That is not the case today.

The other day, I had a bet with Glenn Lall, the publisher of Kaieteur News, about what operates outside public schools in the United States. He told me that things were so bad that every public school had a police presence when the final bell rang. Whether he is right or wrong is not the issue. The issue is that things have reached the stage where the police are necessary to ensure law and order once the school closes its doors.

This tells a story of young men shunning the norms of society and trying to attract attention for all the wrong reasons. They strut around the classroom with no time for learning; they preen themselves for the girls and at the end of the day they leave with nothing but manly skills.

It is not surprising that this is the global trend, because television transports everything that happens in one part of the world into homes around the globe. Guyana with its small population and declining parental control is producing young criminals by the droves.

The Human Development Report concluded that the criminals are getting younger and I am sure that many in Guyana had reached this conclusion a long time ago. At present a murder suspect is a mere fourteen years old. In fact, he was said to be the mastermind.

At that age I was with friends involved in cricket and the indoor games boys played. Many of my colleagues were into chess. We simply did not have any lure to pursue a life of crime. In our homes, if we did not have something then we simply did without.

Today, many of the young boys do not even know what it is to have a home life. Theirs is the life of the streets. They assemble on bridges and at street corners testing their knowledge of the criminal underworld.

It does not help the society when people send their high-achieving sons to live overseas, away from what the society calls the maddening crowd. Those who remain will not all gravitate to a life of crime; they will head for the goldfields or for the minibuses that cause their share of societal problems. But their experience in school will help foster the disregard for women.

It is not accidental that so many men assault women. A simple survey would reveal that the less educated a man is the more he is likely to be the architect of domestic violence. But the women are learning. They are qualifying themselves and living single lives where they refuse to be bossed by a man.
It is not accidental that weddings are fast becoming things of the past and single parent households are burgeoning.

This is what makes life so difficult for any government. The problem is to reverse this trend. There were institutions like the Guyana National Service that did what schools failed to do—teach young boys discipline and a sense of purpose. But there is more that needs to be done. National Service may get the young man at the later stages of his development. The government needs to create an institution that would grab the interest of the young boys from an early age.

If this seems easier said than done, then the powers that be should consider a measure that would get more males into the schools. Making the pay attractive would be a start.

Oil is coming and the country needs men who could be anything other than criminals. We surely do not want to be like Trinidad, where men and women are slaughtered daily because there are too many young men who see the gun as their salvation.

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  • guyaneseonline  On October 23, 2016 at 4:45 am

    Raise the retirement age
    Oct 23, 2016 Kaieteur News – Columnists, Peeping Tom

    Teachers should not have to retire at age 55. This is the age when teachers have become more matured and experienced at teaching. Yet this is the very age when they have to say goodbye to the teaching profession.
    Doctors attend to your aliments and wounds. Teachers attend to your mind. If doctors can work beyond the age of fifty-five, why can’t teachers do the same?
    We have had fifty years of a brain drain in Guyana. We have been losing skills since we became Independent. In such a situation, it makes no sense to be having a low age of retirement. We should be extending the age of retirement.
    Guyana has a high migration rate. We are losing skills. We are also losing teachers. So it is not going to be easy to replace certain teachers.
    Fifty-five is too young to retire. Teachers who have to retire at this age, often have to go and look for other work. This can be humiliating. There was a case once in which a teacher had to beg for a job from one of her former students.
    Teachers deserve better. If there is any category of workers who should enjoy the highest pay in the country, it should be teachers. But since they are not politicians and cannot award themselves a fifty per cent increase, the least that can be done is to extend their retirement age.
    We need experienced teachers in our school system. The poor results emanating from the school system can only be improved if we ensure that we have good teachers. The number of good teachers in the system is limited and it makes no sense to retire these teachers at age fifty-five, when they still have another five good years of teaching ahead of them.
    It takes time for teachers to become experienced. The skill of teaching does not develop overnight. It has to be honed. This is why once teachers are capable of standing on their feet for two hours they should be allowed to teach beyond the age of 55.
    There is the view that by retiring teachers early, you will be stifling promotions. There is merit in this view, but perhaps a system can be worked out in which a teacher can stay on after fifty-five, but not be eligible for promotion. It will be controversial. But the better option would be to allow teachers to work until sixty and then retire without any restrictions on promotions.
    If we cannot pay our teachers well, then the next best thing is to allow them to work until they feel they should call it a day. This could mean having a flexible retirement. Teachers can opt to retire at 50 or to retire later, with no less of benefits.
    One of the sad things about the age at which teachers have to retire is that they have to wait five years after their retirement before they can obtain their social security benefits. How are they to survive in the meantime on their small pensions?
    Teachers, as soon as they retire, should be able to obtain their social security so that they can enjoy their retirement. It is not something that is worth thinking about. We have passed that stage. It is time to implement it. Not tomorrow, but today, because as we know tomorrow never comes, especially when you are a politician.

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