Cambridge High School – School Rules & Grooming
The Jamaica Youth Advocacy Network (JYAN) wishes to highlight how problematic the recent events at Cambridge High School are and urges the Ministry of Education to act more expeditiously in ushering a policy that best addresses these issues. Denying a young lady, who was expected to present the valedictory speech, of her ability to participate in the ceremony due to the remnant that is a colonial characterization is farce and antiquated. The fact that a child, who underwent chemotherapy and lost her hair as a result, was reprimanded because of her desire to express herself in a manner befitting of her high school culmination is unacceptable.
The “rules are rules” narrative in relation to grooming issues in schools has continued to dominate the media and it is our firm belief that there must be more flexibility when approaching these situations. We have identified the shortfalls often associated with arbitrarily implementing and enforcing rules that lack a reasonable foundation. Often, such measures ignore the best interest of the child which should be the primary concern when dealing with children. Denying children of opportunities parallel to their right to an education is a grave violation and an act which we cannot support.
Educators should be cautious when imposing rules that ignore the diversity that characterizes our children. Rules that exist to oppress individuals are meant to be challenged. It is time that these institutions realize and acknowledge that much of the standards, principles and procedures that they force students to adhere to have close ties to notions of colonialism that has stifled an entire race. We have seen, on too many occasions, students being deprived of opportunities and milestones because of traditionalist perspectives. Beyond the assertions that such principles prepare our children for the world of work and instils ideas of modesty, it ignores the fundamental reality of how dynamic and fluid society is.
It is on this basis that JYAN believes that the proposed grooming policy be open to public consultation, inclusive of input from children, so as to ensure that it is not systematically oppressive. Much of the dialogue concerning young people in light of the aforementioned often ignores what the youth have to say. In order to ensure meaningful engagement beyond mere tokenism or manipulation, a more inclusive process should be enabled.
We look forward to the prompt development of a policy that is responsive to the desires of young people, that respects the rights of children, that recognizes the best interest of the child as a paramount consideration, that sheds old colonial based ideals and one that is not unduly oppressive.