January 8, 2008

THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL – 2 of 4

Posted in Buxton, Education, Guyana, Lusignan, Messages tagged , , , , , at 6:45 am by randallbutisingh

THE ROLE OF THE SCHOOL

(With reference to the Sugar Estate Community in Guyana)

By: Randall Butisingh. -June 1964 – Chapters: 5-8

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5 – PERSONAL ADEQUACY:

This will involve the health of the individual, his temperament, his attitude towards work, his sense of values, his resourcefulness, his spirit of independence and the necessary academic training for a complex modern existence.

In planning the curriculum to fulfill these needs, attention will have to be paid to a suitable program for physical education, for practical hygiene and for manual work. In this country with so much unemployment and underemployment at the present time, instructions in gardening, poultry rearing and some of the crafts would be of tremendous benefit to the majority of pupils when they leave school. This will prevent them from getting into boredom and the trouble, which is born of idleness and aversion to manual labor. But these activities must be properly organized with active teacher’s participation and interest, and good results must accrue in order to encourage pupils. The right attitude of both teachers and pupils towards this kind of work will help develop the type of citizens required in an underdeveloped and emerging country. If pupils can be made to realize that the soil is the source of nearly all of our material needs, and that those who wrest its resources for the existence of mankind are among the most important people, then the seed is set for the pioneering and enterprising spirit. It may not be practicable to have farm schools for all, but every school, especially in the rural areas, should have a little garden for this kind of training.

In cultivating a right attitude towards manual work, the attitude of parents too has to be considered: I once visited a parent who is a tailor by trade and saw his little four-year old son stitching away on a piece of plain cloth with the facility of a seasoned apprentice. I expressed my admiration of the little fellow, but the man surprised and somewhat embarrassed me by saying that he did not want his boy to do that kind of work and that he would prefer him to take to his books. This man is a successful tailor with over half a dozen employees; he talked of importing machinery for the manufacture of shirts, but he would like his boy to take up some profession that he considered easier work and of more prestige value to the family. He never thought of the child’s mental capacity or bent.

This attitude in parents can mar the future happiness of children by making them square pegs in round holes or mere robots when they could be more creative. Doctor Matthew said: “To no other cause perhaps, is failure in life so frequently to be traced as the mistaken calling” and David Bush in his book “Practical Psychology and Sex Life” stated: “Hundreds of American employees are miserable failures because they have not found the work they like to do, or have not made themselves like the work they do”.

The school therefore with the cooperation of parents can help children to see dignity in labor and to follow the occupations for which they are suited.

As regard physical education for personal adequacy the school’s program should include swimming, especially when it is considered that this country is a land of many waters and much traveling and fishing are being done in rivers. Many lives have been lost in this country because of the inability to swim. As a corollary, first aid including artificial respiration should be taught in schools.

Sex Education:

This subject should find a place in the program for practical hygiene as the great majority of children leave school during adolescence. Even the draft Curriculum Guide has given no indication of what can be done in this respect. This is not surprising because even in England and other progressive countries this need has not been adequately met. This is not doubt due to a taboo, which is gradually wearing away.

“Sex Education should not be an isolated subject”, says a writer in a Psychology Magazine, “but rather one view-point of much broader program of mental and human relationships”. C.W. Valentine in Psychology and its bearing of education suggests two principles of procedure; “first, that the child should be taught some of the main facts as to sex before he reaches the stage of adolescence, when it becomes emotionally exciting, though some repetition and extension is desirable during adolescence; secondly, that he should be taught by a person who can adopt a calm, rational himself”.

We teach the circulation of the blood and other bodily processes but never a hint of this most important biological function. We teach the prevention of diseases like Typhoid and Tuberculosis, but never words about Social Diseases which statistics show have victims among teenagers also. We warn our pupils about the dangers of alcohol and cigarette smoking, but nothing is said about the dangers of the prostitute. We teach what happens to us when we overeat and overwork, but nothing about sexual abuse. Sex remains a mystery to most adolescents except those who have learnt about it in a crude and erroneous form from other adolescents or indiscreet adults.

This subject has been the concern of many conscientious teachers and I know of an elderly female teacher who took the initiative to speak to a group of schoolgirls because of a certain incident. Some big girls were laughing at the shape of a pregnant woman. This teacher did not rebuke them, but she called together the whole class of bigger girls and explained to them the reason for the woman’s shape. This she did truthfully and skillfully changing their attitude to one of wonder and reverence. With the right teachers, and a change of attitude in parents, this subject could be reasonably met.

As regard the estate community, the need is greater; the reason for this is that there are still some illiterate and a majority of semi-literate parents to be found there. Added to this, the children especially girls still marry at an early age ignorant of matters pertaining to sex. Youths in their teens are faced with burden of household and parental responsibilities. Sometimes the burden is shared by the parents of the male as is the case in India, but this kind of dependence, though traditional, does not work well in our Guyanese society and the couple are often thrown out before they are mature enough to face the rigors of an independent existence. Because of this early marriage in the Indian element of the estate community, Mothercraft as well should be taught in schools of estates.

With the present difficulty concerning the attitude of the public towards these things, the school will have to establish good parent-teacher relationships and organize adult education programs.

Under this head, too, the use of leisure cannot be overstressed. In a community where living standards are getting higher and higher and the prospect of full time employment not good, leisure must be productive. Killing time through games of chance or idle talk will not help to fulfill the needs of the individual or the community, hence the need for hobbies like gardening and poultry rearing, woodwork and other crafts. Because of this need for productive leisure, the estate community center is finding it difficult to attract the residents for unproductive and cultural diversions. There may be some, however, who because of more remunerative and permanent employment can spend their leisure in games or undertake to initiate and organize social activities.

The modern citizen must be so equipped academically after he leaves school that he will be able to read, at least his newspapers intelligently and critically, converse intelligently on a wide range of topics including world affairs, and make calculations involving his everyday affairs, quickly and accurately.

In conclusion, apart from the physical and mental qualities, personal adequacy will involve the power of fortitude, the spirit of optimism, a sense of humor, resourcefulness, adaptability to meet the frequent changes of this modern age and wise use of adversity. These could be taught and caught in the good school.

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6 – SOCIAL ADEQUACY:

Man is a social animal. He needs for his own development and self-realization, intercourse with others of his kind. His personality flowers in a congenial social atmosphere and he is able to exploit his spiritual potentiality to greater advantage. It is the function of the school that tends more and more to a replica of society to provide the environment for the fulfillment of this need.

In the estate schools, there is not only more than one ethnic group with East Indians predominating, but there are children of different religious persuasions. The school is therefore, faced with the task of laying the foundation for racial harmony and religious toleration. The child could be made to understand that religion is a personal affair and could never be one as people vary in temperament and background; but all that religion aim at the same goal. They could be made to understand that God is the same, even if he is called by different names. The teacher, therefore, should know the religious composition of his district and have at least a smattering of comparative religion.

This fundamental toleration is a pre-requisite for social adequacy, and in a multi-racial country like ours, the chief religious feast days could well be national holidays. It would not be wise therefore to teach religious knowledge with a sectarian bias nor to direct prayers to a Divine Incarnation of a particular sect; but, as children will have to meet now and in the future at places where there will be ceremonies other than that of their own persuasion, they can learn by example and precept the wisdom of remaining reverent while others worship according to their own consciences.

The need for good relationship among ethnic groups in a multi-racial society is of great importance for the march towards Nationalism and for the future stability of the Nation. Lessons in Anatomy can impress the basic similarity of all races; lessons in Geography can explain color and hi-suite texture; lessons in history can portray the lives of great men of all races who have contributed to the material, cultural and spiritual advancement of the whole human race; and religion can explain the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of man.

In the cultivation of social adequacy, the school can play its part in fostering a Guyanese Culture. This is necessary in this stage of our country’s development when individual cultures lack the stability because of inadequate knowledge and proper understanding to flourish side by side as is the case of our neighbors in Suriname. With the rapid diminishing of the Hindi language that is an integral part of the Hindu religion and culture the need for an integrated culture is essential for National stability.

This spirit is expressed in a letter by Kaka Kalelkar, Vice President, Indian Council for Cultural Relations, in a message on the occasion of the Foundation laying ceremony of the Indian Cultural Center in this country: “I have always felt, he said, “that countries like British Guiana are God’s laboratories where experience are being made, under varying conditions, of evolving multi-racial cooperation and multi-racial synthesis”.

The school can also help to lay the foundation for social adequacy by organizing clubs in which children can practice the art of listening and speaking at the correct time. They can learn, too, to share responsibility and to regard the individual for his true worth. In short the school can foster the democratic spirit.

Organized games and athletics too, can play an important part in fostering the team spirit and sportsmanship – the former so important in building a nation. Added to these, activities like concerts, where group participation is necessary, can help to a great extent towards the goal of social adequacy.

I was surprised and disappointed one day when one of my senior teachers who is African ordered an African boy off the stage as the lad was about to participate in an Indian dance one of the items for our annual concert. The boy never attempted it again even with my persuasion. He probably felt it was wrong or below the dignity of the African. This attitude in a teacher is not in the best interest of integration.

That the school is a miniature society and must reflect the values of that society is quite true in so far as developed and dynamic societies are concerned, but in a country with its culture still in the melting pot, the school is faced with the obligation of initiating new values in a way which will be acceptable to society. This is of special importance in the estate community.

The need for knowing racial customs in this country is related in the following: the leader of a discussion group in an estate community center once asked the group what they thought of “going steady.” They were discussing the problems of Adolescence. The group that chiefly comprised East Indians parents was embarrassed. The reason for this is that Indian boys and girls never meet socially. Things are changing slowly in this respect except in urban areas where the impact of education and Western life has been strong. A girl in the estate area, especially a Hindu girl, if seen walking or talking with a boy will find it difficult to get a suitor as she will be considered immoral. Adolescents who try to break away from this tradition sometimes end disastrously. There have been cases of suicide in various estates because of frustrated love. Education will eventually help to solve this and the school will have its part.

Before closing this chapter of the function of the school, it should be mentioned that education for social adequacy should extend beyond the boundaries of the community and take into consideration customs and traditions for international relationships in this age when, on account of good traveling facilities, people travel frequently for education, for pleasure and to domicile in other countries.

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7 – ECONOMIC ADEQUACY:

“Man cannot live by bread alone”, but he must have bread sufficient and nourishing enough to fulfill his physical needs if he wishes to survive and to be healthy enough to pursue the end for which he was created. He needs covering for his body, shelter and the necessities and amenities that help to make life and living worthwhile. As civilization advances, his needs multiply and the amenities of yesterday become the necessities of today. He needs books for enlightenment and entertainment, newspapers and magazines to keep him abreast with the times, recreational facilities and the capacity to meet his social demands.

In primitive times when wants were few, the individual through his own efforts was able to provide for all his wants; but in a complex modern society with the stress on specialization and the multiplicity of wants and needs, the individual has to depend on others to supply his basic wants. In order to get these things for his existence, he has to work in a special field and earn wages with which to buy them.

The school therefore, in order to “fit the child to live” will have to pay regard to this capacity of the child. Here too, as was mentioned under the heading Personal Adequacy, vocational guidance would be of importance; and “effective intelligence” where “basic intelligence” is lacking should be discovered and encouraged (see Curriculum Guide, page 50, Junior Division). The child whose basic intelligence is low should be exposed to situations where its talents could be discovered and trained, and where it could work along with its classmates with pride, confidence and a sense of achievement.

A young man recently reminded me of my once telling his teacher not to label him as dull because it is quite possible that he may be bright in some other field. This young man is a carpenter and is responsible for a small gang of workmen. What I said proved to be true, but it was a pity that his “effective intelligence” was not discovered in school.

Edgar Dale in one of his Newsletters wrote, “The saddest of all obituaries might well be: His hidden talents were never discovered”.

Important avenues for the discovery of effective intelligence are Gardening, Stock and Poultry Rearing, Woodwork, Needlework and other forms of Handwork, Art, Music, and Environmental Studies.

A word now on the economic prospects in the Estate Community today. Most of the pupils leaving school would scoff at the idea of working in the sugar-cane fields. Many parents would not like their children to work there. Even if they are willing to work there will not be enough hobs to absorb the army of young school leavers on account of mechanization and highly powered centralized factories. In these circumstances only a small percentage of them will work or will be able to find work in the fields; a small percentage will find work as technicians and clerks in the sugar industry; another small percentage will find work as civil servants or as teachers or enter business. For the rest, except for the few who find work in small industries and for the few enterprising ones, there will remain the specter of unemployment and under employment.

This latter situation should be of great concern to the “molders of the nation” as this period is the most crucial in the life of the child who is already faced with the problems of adolescence. In this country there can be no greater contribution to education than the fostering of the ability and the developing of the capacity to meet this precarious period. The child would need to be taught the dignity of labor, industry, resourcefulness and thrift; and with so much land available, so many different types of materials for handwork, the hinterland to be explored and waters for fishing, this challenging period could be met with hope and confidence.

It should be of immediate interest and concern that some people who have built houses in the extra nuclear areas are selling out and are hieing to the riverain areas where they need not wait for employment from any one. British Guiana is potentially agricultural and with a diversified peasant farming the unemployment rate can go down steeply if there is the spirit of enterprise, love of the soil and belief in the dignity of labour.

The school can play its part in creating a right attitude in cultivating a sense of values, and the Government can offer inducements that will encourage potential farmers and enhance their status. In my opinion, farm schools after the pattern of India, can help in fostering a love for agriculture.

Economic adequacy cannot be measured in terms of dollars and cents only. Money is necessary but the ability to spend is very important. Needs must be distinguished from wants and necessities from amenities. Waste of time and material will have to be eliminated too. With the practice of planning, budgeting and thrift, the dollar could be made to stretch. The use of leisure, too, could be creative and productive. School co-operatives, Cookery, and Handicraft classes and Kitchen Gardening can provide opportunity for the child to undertake responsibility for spending, budgeting and learning the Economy of Time.

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8 – GOOD CITIZENSHIP:

There is some significance in the saying “I am a citizen of no mean city” by Saint Paul that great Apostle of the Christian faith and writer of the Epistles. Saint Paul is here asserting the force of environment – a great city produces great citizens.

Environment is an important factor in the planning of the school’s program. The slum area will call for a different approach and a different treatment from the area where good housing prevails, and the estate community from that of the village or town.

The estate resident is typically self-centered. This is a legacy handed down to him by his forefathers. He has not yet learnt community living, though at times he meets with others for ceremonies and festivals. His community is mainly geographical – a collection of houses, places of worship, and public facilities, but the community spirit hardly pervades. He keeps his own house and yard scrupulously clean, but leaves common drains unattended. He throws his rubbish on the streets and allows his children to defecate there. He breaks water taps and pipes in order to irrigate his garden and digs the dirt from the land set aside for public purposes to make up his own yard. He is suspicious of the Community Center; he thinks it is an organization for destroying cultural standards by encouraging activities in which both sexes participate; he avoids educational programs, but will attend at short notice if there is a film show or free entertainment on. The young men, most of them want the free use of the Community Center. Some say the sweat of their fathers built it and prefer to spend their allowances on other things rather than contribute a small amount for the use of the educational and recreational facilities of the Center. In these circumstances the Welfare’s Officer’s task becomes an onerous one. If he manages to get groups formed, he has to carry the brunt of initiating and organizing because of a lack of initiative, complacency and a wrong concept of the officer’s duties.

The school in the estate community; if its program is to be effective, must pay regard to this state of affairs and reflect it in the curriculum. Formal lessons alone in citizenship will not be able to achieve the goal, but regard for the feeling of others, care of public property, self help and responsible leadership can be caught as well as taught in the school.

The school can help the child to realize that he is a citizen with the rights and privileges that go with the status; that he enjoys public facilities and the protection of the State; that it is his duty therefore to protect public property, to have a regard for law and order, to pay taxes, to assist in the maintenance of law and order and to help in choosing wisely, by the privilege of the vote, those who would guide the destiny of the nation.

Privilege can be interpreted to him as something sacred and which will need wisdom and the exercise of the conscience to fulfill.

“The school abounds with opportunities for the training of the useful citizen:” Kathleen E.M. Coleman in ‘Willingly to School’ states: “Even the smallest children can learn to take responsibility for themselves. They can learn to keep themselves, their clothes, the cupboards, the room and the compound clean and tidy. They can learn to keep communal property carefully, to use the latrines properly; to take great care of library books; they can learn to behave with consideration in public places; to be quick at the stand pipe, quiet outside the hospital and orderly in the queue”.

The school can also help in sowing the seeds of good citizenship by organizing clubs where procedure can be learnt, toleration can be practiced, potential leaders be discovered and democratically elected. Pupils can be given responsibility as prefects and monitors by popular vote. It is important that they learn to choose the most suitable person and not choose on the basis of sentiment. Choosing leaders on the basis of relationship or other attachment has been the bane of many organizations in this area and among semi-literate communities.

Pupils can also learn to be aware of the adhesive or dictatorial leader, to be wary of the captivating personality and the “ranter”. In the estate community centers, leaders of groups hold positions too long and when their leadership is challenged, they invariably cease to remain as ordinary members.

The first Tenants’ Association of the Annandale area was an example of adhesive leadership. The organization flourished at first because of the initiative and drive of the President, but later flopped when his position was challenged. It remained active for many months until a new set of leaders came on the scene. The former leaders stayed aloof and held the material possessions of the organization. The new association was not founded democratically but the community was too complacent and not civic-minded enough to challenge them.

Self Help:

The spirit of Self Help is an important ingredient in good citizenship and this spirit the school can help to foster. The estate family unit is not only self-centered but coming so soon after Indentureship has inherited the paternalistic mentality as well. Many projects that could be done by co-operative effort are allowed to remain while they wait on “management” to do something about them. They clamour for National Independence but are reluctant to take on the responsibility of local government, and because of material advantage prefer to be tied to the apron string of Estate Administration. This spirit needs to be weaned as it is not consistent with the spirit of independence.

Self Help in the school could be fostered through varying projects and environmental studies, through encouragement in self-help effort. It could be done on an individual or

World Citizenship:

To this end, mere retailing of knowledge should give place to much exercise in thinking. The teacher should not be too quick to solve a problem for a child. The effort and practice in thinking are of major importance in the education of the child

Unlike the days of St. Paul when cities were hemmed in with walls in order to keep away invaders and traveling was slow and tedious, when the world appeared large, some parts considered inaccessible and much unknown, today the world is continually growing smaller and smaller on account of rapid communications by air and land. Artificial barriers are now ineffective and the distant countries of the past can now be considered as neighbours. There is the possibility of a pushbutton warfare affecting the entire world and are factors of great significance for every individual living in the world today. “Our civilization cannot endure unless we as individuals realize our personal responsibility to, and dependence on, the rest of the world” is a quotation that connotes world citizenship and the indivisibility of the human race.

Where is the past, limited knowledge was adequate for life and living, today a wider and continual knowledge is necessary because of wider interests and responsibilities.

The preparation for this continued education should be the task of the school. The habit of reading should be cultivated and the use of the library encouraged. Teachers should discuss current topics of local and world interest with the children and stress their significance to the individual and humanity.

The school should also keep in touch with its own pupils and organize Adult Education programs through its Parent-Teacher Association. Adult Education is of paramount importance in an emerging country like ours as soon the government will be entrusted to the people. An enlightened people will be better able to follow issues clearly and make sound judgments.

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