In describing the behaviour of some of the students who returned to the face-to-face format of school earlier this year as being like those of ‘wild animals’, President of the Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA), Winston Smith, has lambasted the Ministry of Education for what he said has been a failure to provide public schools with more guidance counsellors and social workers.
Smith is contending that individuals trained in those specific areas are better equipped to assist students who are suffering from psychological and behavioural problems caused by drug use, among other things.
In providing an update on the education system since the full reopening of school, he said educators have observed that both the COVID-19 pandemic and social media have severely impacted many children’s behaviour.
“By January (this year), school was opened in full force and our students are back, but Lord God, have mercy. What came back to us is nothing like what left before the pandemic!” declared Smith.
He was the guest speaker at a virtual Lions Club of Kingston meeting on Wednesday.
According to Smith, “Our students came back like wild animals, so much so that… I asked my educational research committee to commission a survey among the teachers, and the results show that 88 per cent of our students came back with unacceptable social behaviour(s).
“They came back as thugs, (and) the girls came back as something – I don’t even know what to describe – and if you’re someone that follows social media, you can see the things our students are doing,” he indicated.
The proliferation of drugs being used by some students is another issue educators have had to contend with, the JTA president said.
He contended that it is unacceptable to expect teachers who are not medically trained “to diagnose persons suffering from drug use and abuse, to recognise those (children), and deal with those students in the classroom while teaching.
“The teachers are not equipped with that competence,” he quipped.
Smith said the JTA has appealed to the Government for more social workers and guidance counsellors, but there has been no positive response to the request.
“… And when the JTA asked the Government for guidance counsellors and social workers in every school, they tell us, ‘No, not supported’,” he claimed.
“We the practitioners who are in the field see the challenges and recognise that we are not equipped to diagnose (and) treat the issues the children have. We are asking for help, and we are not getting it,” the JTA president lamented.
“Now, where do we go from here? Teachers are not counsellors who know how to deal with these problems. We know how to teach,” he insisted.
In a sarcastic manner, the JTA president proposed that “probably we need to send back all the teachers back to school to do psychology and social work and so.
“… But while we do that, what’s gonna happen to the school system?” questioned Smith.
He also rapped the Government for not providing scholarships to encourage persons to pursue careers in guidance counselling and social work, especially in light of the JTA’s requests for more of those persons “in our schools, especially at the primary level”.