Caesar stresses value of parental involvement to students' welfare

By Miranda La Rose
Stabroek News
April 3, 2001

Chief Education Officer, Ed Caesar, is appealing to parents to become more directly involved with their children to intensify the impact of school programmes.

Parents should encourage their children to complete homework and must ensure they are appropriately dressed for school and are not in school uniform on the street after dark. Parental involvement is of greater importance in these issues than the Ministry of Education, Caesar said.

Speaking with reporters at a press briefing at the new Distance Education and Information Unit at the National Centre for Education Resource Development (NCERD) in Kingston last Friday, Caesar said that the Ministry of Human Services welfare officers who are attached to the Ministry of Education could not take action outside certain hours because of the laws.

Even if the welfare section is fully staffed and in operation, it would be very ineffective against some attitudes unless parents played their part, Caesar said. "We can speak to them... give lectures at schools but at the end of the day if our young people are not conscious of their responsibilities and parents do not give the kind of support they ought to give in this regard we would still be fighting a losing battle."

The Ministry of Education, he said, was going ahead with the students' governance programme with the expectation that it would have a positive impact on attitudes and behaviour.

The ministry is also working with teachers in the whole area of social and ethical values and with the full implementation of health and family life education in the school system, it is expected that these programmes will have an impact on students. Caesar added that while "all these programmes will have an impact but nothing will have a greater impact than parents' direct involvement."

Teachers were concerned that many students were not completing home assignments given to them, Caesar said. "This is becoming a problem in the school system," he said, adding that not doing home assignments also meant that students were not doing research. Students, he said, "must be made aware that they have to work and work diligently to help develop themselves, and ... of course our country."

There were also reports of parents doing assignments for their children. This would not help the young people, he said, as they would not learn. An important role parents could play, he added, was to ensure that their children used available library facilities as well as provide learning material for them

He observed that "some parents don't find the time to ask children if they have work to do and some don't have the time to ask children to show them the work they have done."

Two weeks ago, he said, he looked at the work of three children, one at a secondary school and the other two at a primary school. The students could not have completed their assignments accurately or correctly because they had copied the assignments off the chalk-boards incorrectly.

On the issue of the way some students dress for school, Caesar said that "some female students and pupils are growing hair overnight" and he has never seen so much false hair in the school system. And parents who bought the false hair for their girls were also buying inadequate material for uniforms. In addition, while students were not supposed to wear gold jewellery, except stud earrings, he noted that even "studs seem to have grown."

What is unfortunate, Caesar said, was that parents made all kinds of excuses for the false hair and jewellery their children wore. Caesar said that one parent explained that it meant less time to plait hair in the evenings or mornings and less expense for hair cream. "But what the child was wearing would not give anyone the impression that the child was a student, one would have thought the child was going somewhere else but not to school. That is what we are concerned about," he said.

As regards boys wearing earrings to school, Caesar said that he was prepared to support any headteacher or administrative staff member who stood up against the practice.

He said that he was aware that some parents were very affluent and this was obvious in the footwear they allowed their children to wear to school. However, he said, he would like to see that affluence reflected in the books they bought for their children.

Urging parents and guardians not to let their children have to wait for them long hours after school had dismissed, Caesar said that it was unfortunate that some of these children lived outside Georgetown and there were no persons nearby to pick them up and take them home. In addition, teenage school children could be seen lingering at the Stabroek Market Square and street corners, in particular Camp and Croal streets. Parents should have children account for their absence from home, he noted.

While Caesar noted that parents ought to be aware of children's rights and responsibilities, as well as the school rules, he queried whether they were in fact supporting the education sector or are contributing to the breakdown in discipline.

In the meantime, he said that the Ministry of Education was working on parental education in some sectors and in particular the magnet school programme, which was showing some measure of success.