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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. 

Guest Lecture Why Mangroves Matter

Tatiana Becker will give a talk on “Why Mangroves Matter” Monday July 27 at 6pm.

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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

“You have to grow something inside them”

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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.

Questions

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?

We should be making technology

I just lost the article I was typing in wordpress! Chrome crashed and its gone! The autosave did not save the latest version. The version I have spent the last 45 minutes typing. If it did save it i can’t get it back. This brand new Windows 8 “beat studio machine” failed me. Again!

You know when these things happen you need to go quickly to the lesson. Then it crossed my mind. What would an ideal personal computer be for me. I think it crossed my mind when I looked across to my Debian machine and felt that if I wanted to continue to write the blog post, I would have to be more serious and committed to making it a dedicated machine for that purpose. The Debian machine is a desktop though so I started to imagine my ideal laptop. Here is a list of things I came up with.

  1. A good Operating system. Stability is important
  2. A good software for writing
  3. A way to be efficiently divided into multiple use. Music production different from writing ( similar to profiles)
  4. Good battery life
  5. A big screen with clear display
  6. Space on the keyboard to type
  7. A keyborad that makes my hands feel good on it
  8. Firm but soft keys buttons
  9. Mouse separated into two parts( basic left right function)
  10. Keyboard and mouse sensitive to the touch
  11. No more than 200 gb internal storage
  12. Additional storage provided in a external drive pack so I can use my files in other places.
  13. A cd drive

Why is imagining the tech tools we use important?

How do we decide what technology should look like and what it should do? how can we play a part in the design of technology. What the availability of recyclable parts why don’t we design our own computers?

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Two week ago we started the ISL Maker shop or Maker labs. It is a partnership with Metabolic Foundation led by Christie and Tony who are in Jamaica to do community and environmental projects. Every Wednesday and Thursday from 3-7 pm we meet at the ISL and invite others to come and join us and make things.  So far our project list includes:

  1. A Solar Dehydrator
  2. A Window farm
  3. A Roof top Garden
  4. A multimedia station for Kids
  5. Chalkboard paint

And we keep adding to the list.

We repair and recycle phones,computers, or other electronic devices on some days as well.

Each week offers us some opportunities

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Love and Superhumans at Di Institute for Social Leadership

Di Institute for Social Leadership( ISL) was started in December 2013. After one year we decided to ask Uche Onobe his thoughts on the space and to share with us what the space means to him.

The heart of a 17 yr old boy

Who knows the heart of a 17 yr old boy?

A boy that is not your son. your brother. a family member.

Who knows his fears. His desires. His dreams. His distractions?

Who sees the soul of a 17 yr old boy who wants to be seen.

Who asks the 17 yr old boy what he wants to be…

Who makes a world for a 17yr old boy who wants to change the world?

Reflection after a day of teaching. Kingston. Jamaica. October 1, 2014

CXCs and the poverty trap. Some thoughts on Critical Pedagogy for African communities

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This week we are doing registrations for learners for a CXC Mathematics, English and Reading Programme at the Institute for Social Leadership. CXC or the Caribbean Examination Council is the certifying body for Regional examinations. It is the most basic requirement for acquiring a a job and gaining admission into colleges or Universities locally.  

Many students graduate from High School without any CXCs and often struggle to get some after or end up having much more limited options for employment because of this lack. 

At Di Institute we thought that if we were able to provide them with an opportunity to do CXC subjects, at a minimum Maths and English we would be helping them to open opportunities for employment and further studies. 

As we began registration I became more puzzled by the situation and began to question our decision to offer Maths and English or even my view that CXC provided a solution.

We have been talking to youth 14-22yrs and this is what we have been understanding;

  • The Youth we work with come from low-income households, typically inner-city communities with adverse living conditions. 
  • There is a lack of money and this makes them think about education specifically as a way to get a job and a job that will give them a steady income. Jobs like fireman, soldier, police, nurse, teacher, accountant, are commonly what i have heard as career options.
  • These jobs are not the best paid in Jamaica. Even though there is scope to be promoted to higher positions over time, these are civil service jobs. Currently the civil service is experiencing a wage freeze and there is much talk about rationalization of the sector which could mean job loss. The service though seemingly representing a stable income, is also at the same time very unstable.

    Are we trapping youths like these in a cycle of poverty with CXC preparation and qualification for these jobs?

  • At the same time, pursuing higher education in Jamaica is becoming increasingly expensive. Many of them don’t see their parents being able to find the money to do this. Even though it is one route for increasing your career options and removing and making you more marketable and therefore likely to earn high salaries.  More and more the University is taking a strict position on payment of tuition fees and the student loan bureau is reporting that it has received an increase in applications but has not yet been able to find all the money need to grant these loans. The student loan bureau has also suffered over the years from students defaulting on the repayment of their loans. 

So as early as 16yrs old youth are prepared to go and find a job.

  • How are new institutions to address education to provide opportunities to youth beyond the “middle level poverty trap” in Jamaica?
  • What should a curriculum and programme for youth look like ?
  • How can we use the value of current certification such as CXC ?
  • How can we support youths in re-imagine their life and circumstances?

Reading List

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. [New York]: Herder and Herder, 1970.

Freire, Paulo. Cultural action for freedom The Harvard educational review. Monograph series, no. 1. [Cambridge]: Harvard educational review, 1970.

Freire, Paulo. Cultural action for freedom Penguin education. Harmondsworth,: Penguin, 1972.

Freire, Paulo. Education for critical consciousness. [1st American ] ed. A Continuum book. New York,: Seabury Press, 1973.

Freire, Paulo. Education, the practice of freedom. London: Writers and Readers Publishing Cooperative, 1976.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy in process: the letters to Guinea-Bissau A Continuum book. New York: Seabury Press, 1978.

Freire, Paulo. A day with Paulo Freire . Delhi: I.S.P.C.K., 1980.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy in process : the letters to Guinea-Bissau. New York: Continuum, 1983.

Freire, Paulo. The politics of education : culture, power, and liberation. South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin & Garvey, 1985.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1986.

Freire, Paulo, and Donaldo P. Macedo. Literacy : reading the word & the worldCritical studies in education series. South Hadley, Mass.: Bergin & Garvey Publishers, 1987.

Freire, Paulo, and Antonio Faundez. Learning to question : a pedagogy of liberation. New York: Continuum, 1989.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the city. New York: Continuum, 1993.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the oppressed. New rev. 20th-Anniversary ed. New York: Continuum, 1993.

Freire, Paulo, and Ana Maria Araújo Freire. Pedagogy of hope : reliving Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum, 1994.

Freire, Paulo, and Donaldo P. Macedo. Letters to Cristina: reflections on my life and work. New York: Routledge, 1996.

Freire, Paulo. Mentoring the mentor: a critical dialogue with Paulo

FreireCounterpoints, vol. 60. New York: P. Lang, 1997.

Freire, Paulo, and Ana Maria Araújo Freire. Pedagogy of the heart. New York: Continuum, 1997.

Freire, Paulo. Teachers as cultural workers: letters to those who dare teach The edge, critical studies in educational theory. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1998.

Freire, Paulo. Politics and education UCLA Latin American studies; v. 83. Los Angeles: UCLA Latin American Center Publications, 1998.

Freire, Paulo, Ana Maria Araújo Freire, and Donaldo P. Macedo. The Paulo Freire reader. New York: Continuum, 1998.

Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of freedom: ethics, democracy, and civic courage Critical perspectives series. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1998.

 

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