A message for the season Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
December 21, 2001

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo is seeking support from religious organisations for some changes in what children are taught at school.

As he explains it, his idea is not for drastic reforms that could lead to sweeping changes in subject areas and things like that.

Simply put, he wants schools to be better able to help people become better citizens and instilling in them the values that most religions around the world preach today.

Some others have called for a moral and spiritual revival and a return to the values of old where children were taught to behave in a certain way to elders and to expect punishment if they strayed from the straight and narrow path.

But times have changed drastically and children today are not subject to the same standards and mores of not so long ago; even the subjects they are taught have changed in a world transformed by computers and Information Technology.

Caning children for misbehaving in school is now forbidden and teachers have to observe rules for administering sanctions on those students caught straying.

In a recent case, three male students of a secondary school on the West Demerara were reported to have gotten drunk during school hours.

The three reportedly aborted classes and proceeded to a shop in Canal #2 Polder, West Bank Demerara where they consumed enough alcohol to make them drunk. The students later went back to school, the Chronicle understands, where they seemed to be dizzy.

When confronted by teachers, they denied that they had consumed alcohol, but a doctor's test later proved otherwise and they were sent home, according to reports reaching the Chronicle.

The case had to be referred to higher officials because schools now do not have the authority to discipline a student, either by way of corporal punishment, suspension, or expulsion. An official explained that the recommendation has to come from a school head teacher to the Regional Education Officer, who then makes a recommendation to the Chief Education Officer.

Older folks would shake their head at such a state of affairs because in their days punishment for misdemeanours was swift and sure.

Mr. Jagdeo is not recommending a return to instant corporal punishment and such stuff but many would share his yearning for a revival of some of the treasured values that seem to have become so cheap or sullied these days.

Expanding on his call for changes in the school curricula, the President said Tuesday night:

"It is not that we are going to stop teaching English, or Math or the Sciences, but we have to address other subjects which, to some extent help people to become better parents, better citizens, and to instill in them values that most of the religions around the world preach today - honesty, hard work, respect for each other and respect for elders especially."

The world has suffered enough from extremism from most religious groups but there are values pivotal to all religions that are crucial to building better societies.

And in his drive for inculcating such values, President Jagdeo should be supported by all concerned about the alarming drop in certain basic standards in this society.