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Our Hopes and Dreams

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!

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The Apology

This Wednesday and Thursday at Di Institute for Social Leadership. 1-6:30pm. Lets start a reasoning about the recent apologies by the Prime Minister to the Rasatafari community and to the residents of Tivoli Gardens.

Feeding ourselves finding ourselves and restoring dignity to ourselves as human beings

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. 

Zanj Radio DJs host dj lyme at di ISL 

From left DJ Zanj Racc DJ Cane DJ Afifa

Who is protecting children from this increased vulnerability?

“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.

The Education Ministry said the Board of the Hampton High School for girls has been given until January 30 to submit a full report on the actions of Murray.

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?

Thoughts on Choice and dignity

How do you give someone dignity?

Dignity is acknowledging your humanity. You are a human being with the capacity and capability. You possess the ability to experience life fully. Maybe we can create an environment which encourages people to  feel that there is trust in their capacity. Maybe if we created using our own ideas and resources it would help us to restore our dignity. In many ways this is what Marcus Garvey was showing us;the descendants of Africans at home and abroad, Confidence in self.

Confidence in self maintains dignity.  Do we still believe in our ability? Much of our confidence has been removed systematically and we have been made dependent on Governments or a political system that abuses power and monopolizes the wealth of the country to maintain itself.  We have been manipulated away from ourselves. In this process losing our dignity.

People can choose to reclaim their dignity or leave it for dead and continue living.

We all have to choose how we want to live. Some choices are harder than others but all our choices add up.

We should not try to choose a life for anyone. No matter what the situation. We have to make our own choices.

Many community projects or development projects are not designed with an understanding of how dignity or choice work.

Di ISL is a not a community or development project but i have learnt that living in a “community” or working in a collective  requires understanding choice. This removes the gap created by expectations that people will act according to some ideal within the community. Understanding choice allows us to pursue goals collectively.

 

People

Th common factor  is people. How we are. How we relate to each other.

Some months have gone since i have posted. Many lessons have accumulated though and when i spread them out on the table i see that the common factor is people. If the problem is economic, you will find that it is a problem about us and how we think about what we need and how we measure ourselves against others and what we hold as ambitions. If the problem is social. You will find it is how we think and how others have thought of us. Who we were as children. People, ideas,values, cultures and subcultures.

When we started the ISL i said it was an art project/experiment. It was an outgrowth of the SO((U))L HQ and designed to for us to experiment and learn about learning, leadership, justice, community and equality in african communities in Jamaica. As we learn we change and we continue.

We are entering another phase of our learning at the ISL and another phase of making art or making space.

We will be hosting conversation at the ISL and the SO((U))L HQ this month to look at some of the art we have made over the last 6 years. Look out for more updates.cropped-img_5064.jpg

How can we fix the volunteer problem at 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.

  1. How can we get more community members to support the ISL?
  2. What is a good exchange for the time that people give at the ISL?
  3. What is changing in volunteer culture ?
  4. Do we need to change our approach to building support at the ISL ?

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.

 

Reading Poster STEAM volunteers

 

 

 

Who does social work? Developing a diversity participation policy for working in black communities

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 ;

  1.  What does it mean to be a volunteer?
  2. What is your experience with volunteering? In what areas have you volunteered and why?
  3. Has your volunteering only been with poor black communities in the Caribbean or Africa?
  4. Have you previously volunteered with children in low income “white” communities?
  5. What is your understanding of the objective of the ISL? How does it fit into your desire to volunteer?
  6. What are your views on blackness, Africa, racism and white privilege?
  7. Would you be willing to go through an intensive training programme before you begin to volunteer?
  8. What in your opinion are the social and economic priorities for Jamaica now?
  9. What in your opinion are the social and economic priorities of your country and how will that affect Jamaica?
  10. What is your proposed involvement with the ISL after you volunteer period has ended?
  11. What would you be willing to do to keep the ISL open?
  12. Are you able to offer or arrange opportunities to travel to your country for individuals you interact with while volunteering?
  13. What is your passion in life?
  14.  What does social leadership look like with the dynamic of race?

There are more questions and more points to dissect but we have to start here .

 

Where are the community Sports Programmes in Jamaica?

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I met 3 former student athlete at Di ISL.

One guy used to play football for his school. His team was celebrated when against the odds, they reached the finals of the first LIME Super CUP football competition that was held this year. He also plays for a club in the Premier League . He is now looking for work and hopes to find a job doing “anything” and continue playing football when he can.

Another guy used to do Track. He has dreams of being a 800m runner as good as David Rushida of Kenya. A coach from a “prestigious” high School in Kingston saw his performance at some track meets and got him transferred. He worked hard on improving his time and going to the Boys and Girls Championships but never made the team. He still sees himself being able to compete for Jamaica but he has been out of school for 2 years now. No job and no clue of where to go next in pursuit of a dream.

Then there is the female hurdler and 100m runner. She ran for a high school with a reputation of producing athletes who could get scholarships to go abroad and continue their athletic career and become professional athletes. She believed she was well on her way until she got some injuries and that affected her performance at Champs. She didn’t do well but she was trying to work out a way to get a scholarship to go to a college in the United States. It hasn’t worked out. Now she is looking for work and some options.

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Community Sports programmes advancing opportunities for youth

Sports has offered an opportunity for many youths to earn a living have a career and do something that they really love. However i am feeling like there is something very wrong. I am posing several questions.

  • Why should a dream of playing sports professionally stop after High School?
  • How are students athletes being prepared to be professional athletes?
  • Are there community sports programmes or clubs were youth can continue to compete and develop professionally?
  • Were can youth compete independently internationally as professionals in the sports of there choice?
  • Do sporting bodies understand and support the development of community sports programmes? For which programmes
  • Does Jamaica have a national sport development policy/plan?

I found some ideas on the Social Development Commission website

The Social Development Commission (SDC) is the principal community organization agency working with Jamaica’s 783 communities. Positioned in the Ministry of Local Government & Community Development, the SDC continues to execute its legal mandate to inter alia, “promote and control schemes for, and to do any act or thing which may directly or indirectly serve the advancement of – sport, social, cultural & economic development – for the people of Jamaica and workers in particular”(S7/1965).

Sports is a unifying force and a catalyst for igniting the energies of individuals and groups within communities. Community sports is a mechanism that is used to capture the attention of various groups at the community level which result in bringing them together for collaborative community development efforts.

Goal: To engender the broad participation in community sports programmes/projects as a part of the wider policy for social development.

Mission:To empower community groups, through the various governance structures, to participate in, and ensure that they benefit from and support sustainable sports development programmes in their communities.

Outcomes:Opportunities provided for exposure to rules and requirements of related sports, as well as healthy lifestyle practices through training.

  • Strengthened administrative capacities of individuals and community groups, to plan, access financial resources and implement sporting activities that support the community development process.
  • Stimulate the formation of new community based organization (CBO’s) and strengthening of existing community groups to participate in community development processes.

Annual events

The following are annual events on the Social Development Commission’s calendar,

  1. Parish and National Athletics Championships (March – June),
  2. National Community Cricket Competition (May – September)
  3. Capacity Building Workshops for community representatives (October – November).

The Sports Development

 

Further reading

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