The following is a guest post from Beverley Harris a teacher and professional development enthusiast living and working in Jamaica.
With Christmas 2017 only a few days away,there are many dreamers among us.”I am dreaming of a White Christmas” as Irvin Berlin once penned. Based on the current status of the salary negotiations with the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) and the Government of Jamaica, it is uncertain as to the colour of Christmas for the island’s teachers. With tough International Monetary Fund (IMF) guidelines and the harsh realities of teachers’ spending
power, we will definitely have to call on divine intervention for a peaceful and amicable wage settlement.
While the struggle is on we must highlight a positive move on the part of JTA ,in recent weeks. It was their “Women’s Leadership Conference 2017” held on Tuesday ,November
21,2017 at the Knutsford Court Hotel,Kingston ,under the theme “ Women: Inspired and Empowered to Overcome and Lead”. A glimpse of the programme and informal talks with colleagues confirmed it was a “power packed conference” with several powerful Jamaican women.
Dr. Charmaine Gooden Monteith and her team must be commended for the successful staging of the conference,a brainchild of the eleventh Female President and Fifty-third
President of the JTA.
It is not clear if this kind of conference will be an annual event but one thing is clear : it was a group of ‘carefully selected ‘ women who were the main participants.-the two hundred teacher leaders. I am sure the evaluation exercise will help to determine how other female teachers who are not currently recognized leaders will be treated when next the session is held. Will it remain a closed, private conference or will it be opened to female teachers who would be willing to pay to attend? Something to hope for I guess!
As the New Year approaches, the JTA leadership must not allow interest to wane .The conference attendees who were motivated are anxiously awaiting the next steps in their
journey of becoming empowered.We hope this will not be a dream but we will see the ‘ripple effects ‘ sooner not later. Happy Holidays!
We talked about hunger for a little bit. He said that life is hard sometimes because people can’t find money to buy food to eat. I asked him if he could bear hunger? He said yes! I asked him how he did it. He said you just hold on until you get something to eat.
I thought why should he have to develop this “skill”. He is 14 yrs old. How early do we have to practice baring hunger?
I didn’t know what to say after that. After a while he called me and asked me for $100 to buy something to eat. I paused to think. Should I give him money? I don’t want him to be hungry. Maybe he is hungry. But I don’t like the idea of giving money like this it looks like I have money to give. But I have given so much money here and there already. Giving money like this doesn’t fix anything.
I decided to give him $50 instead. As I reached for the $50 I had a second thought. I have $3000 in here should I give him $1000 and ask him to take $100 and bring back the change? I decided to stick with the original decision. Give him the change I had. I was uncomfortable. I needed some space to work out why I felt like this.
There is a line in the song “who knows ” by Protoje and Chronnix where Protoje says “Food Deh Pon di tree while the youths Nuh have don’t have nuttin to eat” .
I thought about how many times this hasbeen my reality. Except I can just go to the supermarket. It wasn’t until recently that I really understood self-reliance. I should be able to feed myself. I should be able to provide myself with basic nourishment. I live in Jamaica the land of wood and water with a lot of sun so anything can grow.
I have started to learn how to grow things. My greatest success has been learning to grow escallion and add flavour to my food based on the seasoning that I can grow in a garden like ginger, pepper, escallion and thyme. To be self-reliant I need to grow more food so that I am not dependent on cash to eat.
A few months ago my father asked me what my plans were for the rest of the year. I told him I wanted to reduce my dependency to where I didn’t really need a supermarket. To my surprise he replied with a story about how much food he had around him growing up in Portland and that all they needed at the shop was salt.
“Begging” for money to buy food is not a good thing. Needing a job to get money to buy food to eat is not a good thing either.
Youths are looking at life and seeing hunger. People can’t find food to eat because they have no jobs or no way of earning money or they eat very little because they earn very little or they eat poorly because they live on cheap foods. I used to think that a “cup a noodles” and some tin foods was a cheap good way to have something to eat when times were tuff. It was all I thought I could afford so I eat it knowing it had very little nutrition.
We have all been sold something which has taken us so far away from ourselves it has made us dependent and turned the population into markets for cheap food items distributed widely through Chinese wholesales shops in the capital city of Jamaica.
I was talking to a group of sistren in St. Thomas one time and they said to me “food deh Pon the tree yes but suppose you feel like you want something else to eat today? You must get tired of eating the same thing”. I completely understood what they mean and this is another thing to look at.
In Bahia Brazil I was excited and surprised to see a how many different things you could make with coconut and banana and similar to Jamaica just how rich the land was. We can create variety. Our great grandmothers and their grandmothers also wanted variety and they made many of the things we still enjoy today.
All the spaces that we occupy should be growing food. It is an essential practice. It won’t be easy in 2017 because as Ras Takura points out is a “Food war we a fight”. But we need to consider the youth and the future. We have to provide a example for being independent and self-reliant. We have always needed to.
“Let the Law take its course”
Rupert Clarke was caught by the police, so we have a case against him. The police told us that they saw Rupert Clarke in his parked motor car in a compromising position with a 15 year old girl. In Jamaica it is illegal to have sexual intercourse with a minor that is a girl or boy under the age of 16 years old.
For some Rupert Clarke has acted immorally. Rupert Clarke, a pastor and a married man should not be caught in a compromising position with “a girl under the age of 15 years old. He should know better as a pastor especially. For others no man as old as him should be caught in a compromising position with a girl under 15 years old.
There are those who see indiscretion and temptation. Rupert Clarke fell to the temptation of flesh. A common human failing. Rupert Clarke found himself in a similar position to Adam, in the bible. It was Eve who made him eat the apple. Rupert Clarke is just a man who has fallen from grace and we should pray for him. Nothing new in Jamaica, bring him to court, charge him and all others like him move past the whole Rupert Clarke issue.
But Rupert Clarke is the beginning of the whole thing. How does a Pastor caught in his parked motor car in a compromising position with a girl under the age of 15 years connect to Hampton High School?
Something is happening at Hampton High School for Girls
Principal of Hampton School for Girls Heather Murray was present at the bail hearing for Rupert Clarke. Mrs. Murray blocked “cameras from talking photos of Rupert Clarke. Mrs. Murray says she went to the bail hearing to support her dear friend, who is the wife of Rupert Clarke. She also said she went to sign bail documents. She said she blocked the camera because it was illegal to be taking pictures of him. Mrs. Murray went to the bail hearing of Rupert Clarke to help her friend, his wife.
None of the public support which has come out for Mrs.Heather Murray in the wake of public criticisms over her presence and behavior at the courthouse has come from her dear friend that she tried to help. Instead surprisingly, Mr.Trevor Blake the chairman of the board for the Hampton School for girls in support of Heather Murray has asked us to forgive her for what he sees as a moment of indiscretion. Had Trevor Blake been the board chair of Munroe College and Mrs.Murray been Mr.Henry Principal of Munroe College and the Pastor Rupert Clarke caught with a boy of 15 would Trevor Blake call the actions of his principal an indiscretion?
Who is Mr.Trevor Blake and why is he the chairman of the board of Hampton School for Girls? What is the history of his involvement with the Hampton School? What is his track record? How has he affected the development of Hampton School for girls? If we consider the leadership of the school what has been the impact of the Murray Blake alliance on Hampton High School for Girls?
How could the board vote unanimously to accept Mrs.Murray’s apology and take no disciplinary action against her? Who makes up the board? All men? All women? Pastors? Business men? Young men? Young women? Past Students of Hampton or Past students of Munroe? Black men or white men? Rural women or society women? Individuals of a Moravian faith? Who are the members of the Hampton Board?
The Minister of Education versus the Ministry of Education
How could Mr.Trevor Blake reject a directive by the Minister of Education to send Mrs.Murray on two weeks compassionate leave as a consequence for her actions. How could he insist against the decision by the Minister of Education that there will be no consequences for Mrs.Murray’s actions? Not even two weeks compassionate leave?
The news reported that Trevor Blake and Heather Murray met with the Minister of Education Ruel Reid. Just before meeting with the Administration of the Hampton School Mr.Reid told journalist at a press briefing:
“At the end of the day when matters impact the leadership and governance of an education institution I have to be held accountable and in that regard persons who preside over institutions have to be accountable to the minister. There have been a lot of public discussion on the matter and I feel that, as the (education) minister, I need to have a discussion and give some direction as to the way forward, ” he told journalists
By January 12 newspapers were reporting the outcomes of the meeting.
During her two-week leave of absence, in addition to completing a formal report to the School Board and the Munro and Dickerson Trust about her actions, Murray is also expected to avail herself of professional counselling services given what was described as her recent emotional stress, the ministry said,
“Minister Reid said given how Mrs Murray’s actions had been interpreted and how the recent controversy had affected her administrative responsibilities, it was imperative that the time off be taken for reflection and completion of her report to the board and the Trustees,” the ministry said, adding “The principal will finalise her report to the Board and the Management will review and take action as necessary.”
What else can the Ministry of Education do about the situation at Hampton? Here is the problem with our system of government. The separation between the Minister and the Ministry. The Minister is the head of a government agency. The ministry is the agency. The Permanent Secretary is responsible for the day to day running of the Ministry. The Minister has not allowed the Ministry of Education to address this matter. Even though there must be a code of conduct for teachers and principals or a disciplinary committee which makes a judgement in these cases, the Minister of Education Mr. Ruel Reid has acted as the sole arbiter in this matter. Under section 32.1.10 of the Education Act the Teachers Services Commission addresses disciplinary matters related to teachers. Could Mrs. Murray be brought before the Teachers Service Commission? Why hasn’t the Ministry of Education used any other channel other than a meeting with Mrs. Murray? Is there a reason why Mrs. Murray cannot be held accountable by the Minister of Education or the Ministry of Education?
Food, groceries and Sponsorship Programmes
Rupert Clarke had a sexual relationship with the sister of the 15 year old girl with whom he was caught in a compromising position. Investigations and news reports reveal that he used to take food and groceries to the sister whose family seem to be in “need” of financial support. There seems to be many cases of need in St.Elizabeth and also a culture of supporting “needy families. Hampton High School facilitates a sponsorship programme which helps girls who are in financial need to get an education to make a better life for themselves and their families. One such sponsor Mr. Leighton Mcknight wrote in support of the “Heather Murray he knew” in the Jamaica Observer.
I consider myself a part of the Hampton family largely through the school’s principal Heather Murray, who I really got to know initially through my assistance to one of her students (through her this number multiplied to five). I have worked closely with her over the past eight years as she constantly seeks to positively advance the cause of Hampton and education in Jamaica. I will, without fear of contradiction, testify that she is an awesome and exceptionally caring educator to whom our system owes a debt of gratitude. I can cite several examples to support this.
What are the requirements for being a sponsor for girls at Hampton? Are there sponsors for boys at Munroe? What does sponsorship entail? Does the sponsor have contact with the family of the student they are sponsoring? Who manages the sponsor programme? How long does the sponsorship last? Has the sponsor programme being evaluated by anyone external to Hampton School for Girls? Giving “grocery assistance” like Rupert Clarke was doing or maintaining sponsorship programmes at High schools like Hampton could become standard solutions as people try to live in deteriorating economic and social conditions in many areas across Jamaica.
The Minister of Education, Munroe and Dickson Trust and the Moravian Church
Plantation owners Robert Hugh Munro and Caleb Dickenson willed real estate for the creation of two schools to educate as many of the poor children in the parish of St.Elizabeth. Today the Munroe and Dickson Trust oversees the operation of those two schools. Munroe College for boys and Hampton High School for girls. Munroe College was founded in 1856 and Hampton school for girls two years after in 1858. Munroe College is Hampton’s “brother” school, both are boarding schools located in Malvern St.Elizabeth. Malvern is a village in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is also the site of Bethlehem Moravian College.
In what the media is referring to as a “sex scandal rocking the Moravian Church,” Paul Gardner and Jermain Gibson resigned as President and Vice president of the Moravian Church of Jamaica. They have been subsequently charged with carnal abuse and indecent assault following a report made against them and investigations by detectives from the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse into the report. The police say the incidents date as far back as 2002. They are to appear in the Manchester Parish Court on February 1 2017
On Friday December 30, 2016, Paul Gardner separated himself from the Moravian Church Pastor, Rupert Clarke. In a statement published in the Jamaican Gleaner, Gardner said
“I have read the allegations, and it is a very sad day, but all I can say is to let the law take its course,” The Reverend Dr Paul Gardner, president of the Moravian Church in Jamaica,
“If charged and he is found guilty, the church has no option but dismissal from the church … there is no two ways about this.
“We take this very seriously, and if these charges are found to be true, we have no other recourse
“We never, ever condone such behaviour.
“We have a code of ethics to which all our ministers subscribe, and we also have our own discipline and grievance procedure.”
According to Gardner, the senior pastor with 30 years’ experience and all of the leadership of the local body are exposed to regular and intense training sessions to deal with, among other issues, maintaining boundaries, healthy relationships, and guarding one’s integrity.
“So when something like this happens, it is a slap in the face,”
3 Pastors charged with sexual offences against young girls is not a sex scandal. A principal for an all-girls boarding school showing up at the bail hearing of one of the pastors charged with a sexual offence cannot be overlooked as a moment of indiscretion. The Ministry of Education’s response is insufficient. The response by the board of Hampton led by Trevor Blake is unacceptable.
For Trevor Blake to say that Mrs. Murray’s appearance and action at the bail hearing for Rupert Clarke was an indiscretion is to cover up the truth about the relationship between men women and children in St. Elizabeth. For Heather Murray to refuse to step down from the leadership of Hampton Girls school and apologize to us saying she didn’t think her desire to help her friend would be so misunderstood is for her to reinforce and protect the idea that we need to protect our men at all cost regardless of their actions. (Mrs.Murray could also be acting under duress) How many times have we seen this before? Heather Murray and Trevor Blake are pointing to where the chickens have come home to roost.
What do we do now with centuries of religion, tradition, patriarchy and misogyny? Who is protecting children from this increased vulnerability?
I am going back to the ISL to clean. Not that I didn’t clean before. But i am thinking about what happens next. I have been away for 6 months and although things are basically the same way things have changed.
Uche has been mainly responsible with Tony and Christie supporting him while i was away. They have been working with the young people from the community doing reading, art, and science classes and going on exciting field trips. They started a movie night on Saturday nights as well. Engagement with adults have been limited in terms of activities and classes.
Thanks to Uche , Tony and Christie, Joval, Zanj and Mr.Mac and all those who volunteered, the ISL has continued without me.
Cleaning is me thinking about my role after 6 months of indirect involvement but 6 months of repositioning the leadership and management of the ISL to Uche.
I still want to make a contribution to shaping the space, but i need to be clear about where the best space for me is. What is my new role at Di ISL? Friendships at the ISL have changed and therefore the transition at this point is different and difficult.
If i spend time cleaning i can begin to organize things in my mind. Georgia thought me this. to clean the ISL is to support the most basic need at the ISL and then by doing that see where the things will have to go. Maybe cleaning will turn into something else but i am going back to clean the ISL
We have problem at the ISL . We cannot get any volunteers from the Alman Town community which is closest to the ISL and where most of the young people and adults who use the ISL live. We are also not getting volunteers from outside the community to work with us at the ISL. Sometimes people ask what they can do but they don’t follow up on their initial interest and they usually have a problem giving time consistently. We have tried to offer a small stipend for volunteers in the reading programme at the ISL and even this still doesn’t get us volunteers. Sometimes friends come and support but we need people who are willing to give time consistently.
As soon as i started to write this post i remembered a post i had written at the beginning of the ISL about designing an effective volunteer program.
When asking for volunteers we have only specified the time we need and the activity we want the volunteer to be involved in.
We currently need volunteers for a reading programme for young people ages 4-13 from 4-6pm on a Thursday. We meet the ISL and take the children to Heroes Circle.
We also need volunteers for our Science Technology Art and Maths Programme (STEAM) for young people ages 4-13 on Wednesdays 3-5pm.
Uche is in charge at the ISL. That is what I tell everybody who asks about the ISL. I could still run the ISL because I started it but the ISL is about social leadership, developing talents, nurturing talents and encouraging growth. Being equal participants and facilitators for a better reality.
I never asked Uche if he wanted to be in charge but he demonstrated enough interest in a partnership in developing the ISL, a love for helping people and a love for children and youth his community.
We have been doing this leadership experiment for about a year. I have been away from the ISL for 3 months allowing Uche space to be fully in charge.
Leadership is an important principle in our society. Understanding what it means and how it works. A lack of leadership has been blamed for several problems we experience. It is important to develop leadership. It is certainly one way that important work continues.
I have looked at this process as a part of the art of leadership. These are the things i have observed and these are the things i have tried to do.
It would be even more interesting to hear what Uche has to say about leadership at the ISL. he may take a different view.
Policy guideline 1. Race
When we started the ISL we didn’t know that we would be getting requests from “white people” to volunteer. We didn’t know but somehow we should have anticipated this. Over the last year and past weeks I have had to think seriously about people wanting to volunteer with the ISL.
The ISL is open to participation from everyone. We do not discriminate on any basis. We do not want to discriminate on race.
While we are open our objective is not to reinforce the problematic of the “savior complex” or the “the white savior complex” in our work. So when people ask to volunteer what do we tell them? At the moment we have a disproportionate number of volunteer request. Young “white foreigners” from all over are able to travel freely to low-income but spiritually and culturally rich countries such as Jamaica, there Black or African counterparts in the Caribbean, Europe, United States or Canada cannot. This is an inequality and a social injustice. This dynamic is problematic for all involved those who want to volunteer and those who cannot volunteer.
This “volunteer dynamic” is present in several other low-income countries in the Caribbean, and Africa.
I am not only identifying an ideological or philosophical problem. I think it is a very important part of our experiment but questioning how we can come together to do make our interactions valuable. I have more questions than answers and at the moment I think we should move to considering a policy for “diversity participation in social work”. Some guidelines that we use to understand how to accomplish our objective of “creating a space to learn together and develop an understanding and motivation towards social leadership and creating positive alternative realities.
These are some questions I am considering for persons of diverse background interested in volunteering at the ISL ;
There are more questions and more points to dissect but we have to start here .
I have been thinking seriously about Vbyz Kartel for about a year now. My initial discovery of him was in the song “Yuh a mi baby”. This song started a reflection about the “erotic Vybz kartel”, our relationship to male sexuality and sexual expression, love and sex, the importance of kete pa (the good marriage bed and the erotic as African.
Since my discovery, Vbyz Kartel has been convicted of murder and has been sentenced to life in prison. I have continued to be interested in Vbyz Kartel, primarily trying to understand him through his relationship with women, that is the expression of his sexual self and how he shares that and is powerful through that.
Open letter to Tony and Christie (Facilitators of Makers Lab at the ISL)
Tony ad Christie,
Just wanted to say thanks you for doing such an excellent job at sharing “maker culture” and your time and interest in doing workshops and working with us in solidarity. Your work has added an interesting dynamic to the idea of community development work and social justice work and has given us a new understanding about how technology can be integrated into community development work. I think technology and making things is an important component of working with people now because it is a lot of the world we live in. Technology is also important because it helps us to imagine our world as different or better. Designing making and repairing are a necessary part of a liberation practice. And liberation is our essential fmission. Bless and love
Uche says you have to grow something inside them. You have to grow something inside them so that when they think about doing “wrong” the thing will help them to think differently. This is what he told me when i asked him if he thinks we can change anything for these yutes who come to the ISL. I believe him. What we have done to the children is wrong. What we have done is so wrong. They came into a life that we made and they suffer as children into adulthood to then make more children and this cycle will never change. Children will always come, and make more children.
Two boys came to hang out at the ISL yesterday. Sunday evening. They came while i was playing a game of draughts with Uche. Uche called one them to come sing his songs for us. He started singing and he had some funny lyrics. You know how cute it is for kids to be singing showing their talent from early it gives a nice feeling about the possibility of talent, creativity and youths in Jamaica. But one of the songs was about having a girlfriend, the more I listened to him singing I had questions about his life, his world, what he sang about. Where did he live?how come he sounded so adult, or so grown. I asked him two questions based on what he was singing.
His response made me cry for the rest of the evening into this morning. I am not crying now but i know that what we have done to the children is wrong. They don’t have the thing inside and they are not children. We haven’t given them a chance. We haven’t thought about them. They came on earth but they haven’t come from our hearts. The “we” is not just their parents. The “we” is us all of us. The us that create their reality. The “us” that ignore them. What we have done to the children in Jamaica is wrong.
The boy sang about murdering any man who sexually violated his sister or mother. He would murder them with a Winchester. I asked him if he knew how to murder someone and what a Winchester was. He explained that the Winchester was a gun like a ” one pop”. Uche told me they could be made with old windshield wipers. He told me he knew how to murder someone and in explaining he showed me what he would do. He would walk up the person and seem friendly and say something like ” wah gwaan chargie, lend me u lighta mek mi light me spliff”. He would then would then go into his pocket pretending to take out a spliff and instead take out a knife quickly and just cut his throat with it. He also showed me another way to murder someone.
He sang a song about a girl or getting some girl. I asked him if he had a girlfriend. He said “mi have too much girl” mi get gal everyweh”. I asked him if they knew each other and he said no. he said sometimes he has a girlfriend but her friend likes him so he has to make her friend his girlfriend as well. I asked him why he wants to be with his girlfriend’s friend and he said, ” if them want me i can’t refuse them, you mad mi haffi deal wid all a dem, you don’t know what can happen when mi get big suppose one weh mi deh wid a gimme bun?” I dont remember what he mentioned but he started talking about one girl who he wanted to “deh wid”. his friend told him she is good to do things with because she “clean” she doesn’t do oral sex. I asked him what he meant by doing things and he told me have sex with them. The other boy who was there shouted to me that he can “have sex good”. i asked him how he knew. He said when he does it to the girls they cry. He said they cry because he is doing it good. He said one day a girl came to his house and he did it with her in the bathroom and she ran out of the shower crying. she just cried. he smiled as he was telling me.
Everyday i learn that this is not the problem of the poor. These boys are not problematic because they come from the inner city. This is something that all of us have created a condition in which humans decay. Adults and children hurting themselves and each other.
Would you cry? How does this make you feel? What are you thinking about? Do you agree with Uche? Can you see how we create the conditions in which humans decay? Do you understand why we need to grow the thing inside them?