Former educator wants mediators in every school
Ray Howell, former principal of Edith Dalton James High School and past president of Jamaica Teachers' Association (JTA), said restorative practice is needed in schools to curb some of the issues the institutions are currently facing.
Speaking with THE STAR yesterday, Howell, who served the education system for over four decades, said that he strongly believes that the incorporation of a certified mediator within each school will be beneficial to not only students but teachers and parents as well.
"I would recommend that the ministry train teachers into restorative practices. Every high school should have a trained certified mediator, in fact, I proposed that at the last JTA conference that they should have trained mediators. A lot of the problems in school could be solved between teachers, parents and students through mediation. I remember meeting a little boy who was expelled from five schools and I took him at Edith Dalton and some of my teachers were a little concerned, but I gave him that opportunity. On the last day of school some boys ganged him at the bus stop in Duhaney Park and stabbed him up and exams started the following Monday. I sent the guidance counsellor to KPH [Kingston Public Hospital] for him to do his exams and made arrangement with CXC [Caribbean Examinations Council] for him to do it and that boy got eight CXC subjects," he said.
In addition to gang-related activities, there have been reports of drug and alcoholic usage within the school system. Bullying and physical fights also sit high on the list of issues. Howell, who served as JTA president from 1992-1993, said he is encouraging educators to take their services outside the schoolyard and dig into the background of some of these 'troubled' students.
"Know our children and know the background that they are coming from. A lot of these children want that role model. During my tenure at Edith Dalton, I have never expelled a student because I grew up running clubs and so on, so I understand children's behaviour. School was built for children so the environment must be children-friendly as well. In schools today, less than five per cent of the population are the ones giving trouble. If you have a school of 1,000 students, if 50 of them are giving trouble, you will not be able to handle that because that would be two classrooms," he said.
"A lot of the children right now, schools unfortunately, we are to be blamed because we do not understand and we are using the traditional approach to learning and that does not always work. We can't treat everybody the same," Howell added. In addition to restorative practices, Howell said the dean of discipline system has also worked well.