Let the children play…

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Forgive me, but I cannot see the logic of cutting primary schoolchildren’s lunch hour in half, and cannot believe that such a move will somehow temper the violence that is now so evident in many of the nation’s schools.

The school principal who recently recommended this action, which has sparked a huge debate in the country, is amazingly silent these days. But he has spawned a huge national debate.

And for the love of me, I cannot get it out of my head that here is a principal rooting for a shorter school day. I cannot see the benefits of shortening the children’s lunch hour – a time of relaxation, socialising and play – because from time immemorial this period of free time means so much to the teachers and the development of the child.

What right-thinking person would come up with such a suggestion? And, worst of all, the reasons given seem so farfetched. Is he aware of how different today’s child is from the child of two or three generations ago?

In defence of what he had said, he claimed the statement was misunderstood. But even the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association and the National Parent Teachers Association, among others, have said they would not support such a proposal. The Education Minister said, however, it would be discussed.

I do not know that any consultation among parents, teachers and other stakeholders will do anything to move the matter forward. As it is, all the organisations seem to be against any move to change the school hours, including the hour lunch break.

Many years ago, teachers were the surrogate parents – dedicated to their calling; loving their students and really interested in the pupils’ well-being. Today we are inundated with qualified teachers but the methods of teaching and the curricula are different. What we need is not a change in school hours, but curricula that better suit the child’s early development.

I will never tire of saying that most of the violence in schools stems from improper parenting, when children are not taught the basics – respect, truthfulness, proper behaviour, forgiveness and social norms associated with the full development of a child. This, helped along by the dedication of our teachers, will go a long way in educating our children.

The lack of proper parenting and committed teachers necessarily contributes to our children’s poor behaviour. The Archdiocesan Family Life Commission, by its several workshops, has been seeking to improve the quality of parenting in the nation but there is much more work to be done.

So what do we have? Parents who do not spend enough time with their children and teachers who say, ‘My job is not to act as a ‘stand-in’ parent.’

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