Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Parents and education

September 23, 2006 by  
Filed under Love

Following is a conversation among 3 generations of women in my family about parental involvement in Jamaican education. Some background – Grandma is my mother (now a vibrant 88 year old), Carole is my sister and Zahra is my niece who is teaching remedial reading at a technical high school in Jamaica. Please note that Zahra has a Masters in Education from Harvard University, yet has chosen to return to Jamaica and teach.

Both Zahra and I were involved in facilitating the Task Force on Reform of the Education System in Jamaica, and the development of strategic plans using the Balanced Scorecard in 11 schools. With our exposure at the national, institutional and individual student level, we have learned just how bad the education system in Jamaica is (and whatever most Jamaicans have heard – we can tell you, it is a lot, lot worse).

This musing among the 3 generations of Oranes is a discussion that goes on all the time, while we take action in transforming the system wherever we can. We invite you to join – in the discussion and the action!

Zahra wrote:


I sent letters last week to the parents/guardians of my students re: reading classes after school (I won’t be teaching during). Unable to do it myself, I asked the school to do distribute the letters. They did so via form teachers. Of the 30 students I had letters sent to, I ran into about 12 early this week. Only about 6 said they’d received letters. I put my phone number in the letters, inviting the addressees to contact me if they have questions.

Three guardians have called me to: 1. Ask me the cost there’s none to them, just to the school). 2. Tell me they appreciate the offering of classes and my interest in their child. 3. Say they give the go-ahead for their child to attend.

This is proof, I think, that parents/guardians care (and are willing to pay)! They just need to feel valued too.

(p.s. We have not solved the case of the missing letters, so had to re-send new ones yesterday).

Marguerite wrote:

Agreed. My observation is that the education system sets up parents, and really doesn’t want us to participate. The system is built on a foundation of educator-as-expert, (the arrogance of the professional, according to Rae Davis. For this to be maintained the tower must be kept locked and bolted to keep mere mortals like parents out! It is so important for people to pay, as that is the most basic form of participation and gets us started on the road to accountability.

Trust me, as a parent who pays through her TEETH, paying brings HUGE accountability! And there are ways if parents can’t pay cash!

Zahra responsded:

Agree, agree and agree! And the more you force parents to not participate, the better off you are, as you can get away with NUFF! The stories I have about these teachers… which I will publish in a book once I leave there.

Grandma chimed in:

Zahra dear:

Carole has been sending me copies of e-mails passing between you and the Aunts re above subject. May I just add my little two bits?

I am not seething nor angry I have learned more positive ways to direct my energy, but I am indeed saddened and concerned that since my own school days (when there were no parent/teachers Associations) and my own PTA days, there is very little (or no change at all) in teachers’ attitudes towards parents. In my schooldays parents were not respected (even my father who remember was a teacher also). Decisions were made for us which had to be accepted by us and our parents without any objection even choice of exam subject, otherwise our children stood the chance of being subjected to prejudice. End of story. Consequently my whole school career was messed up by my white headmistress Mary Cowper. This story another time.

Come my children’s time. I must say Wolmer’s Boys’ were far more open to suggestions than the Girls’ School where Miss Pinto’s Law was supreme (Remember your experiences Marguerite and Carole?). Parents were welcomed if they saw that their children attended school regularly, on time, were clean, tidy, practised good hygiene (even though the Headmistress dressed quite sloppily and even wore flip/flops at times!), and were obedient.

We were also expected to do our part in the PTA in organizing barbecues etc. for fundraising in the “normal way:, even though Carole has proved there are other “normal ways” through her efforts as a parent in raising $300,000 for football training programme by sitting at her computer and making follow up telephone calls.

Well we have continued in that vein and now come along these upstarts, hard thinking women like the Oranes and others who think “outside the box” with long term vision, the teachers are still not prepared to open themselves and acknowledge that the “quick fix” has not been working and will never work. Wonder why most of them are so against performance measured with pay? So please! you bright, beautiful, intelligent young women try to get other women of the same ilk motivated and never rest until you get this iniquitous system changed. You all know already it is geared to keep poor black children as poor black people all their lives so they can be manipulated. The Black Boss in the Great White House.Sndrome at work here!!

So please SAVE YOUR OWN CHILDREN (AND MY GRANDCHILDREN) , THE POOR BLACK CHILDREN and the generations yet unborn that will come through them so they can develop their own potential and discover what truly wonderful human beings they all are.

Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. WALK FORTH IN STRENGTH AND KEEP DOING WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO RELENTLESSLY.


2 Responses to “Parents and education”
  1. Denise Dubuque-Lyn says:


    Thanks for sharing this discussion with me. The Orane women are an inspiring set! If there is anyway that I can help (though I live in FL) please let me know.

    After teaching myself in Jamaica for 2 years (art school), I had a brief experience, working with some talented people. What I found surprising, is that though we were all there for the same purpose, I witnessed a feeling of hopelessness and distrust in the system.

    I can’t help but wonder if it will take small successes to incrementally build larger ones?


  2. Marguerite Orane says:

    Taking the liberty to post this comment that Sharon Reid, Principal of St. Andrew High School for Girls, so kindly sent to me:

    Hi Marguerite,
    Thanks for including me on your mailing list. Due to time constraints I have only been able to read the comments on parents and education. From my observations much of what you say is true. Might I add however that all of us are victims of the system? All of us educators and parents alike were brought up in the system so clearly described by your mom and unless we are able to think outside of the box we will simply continue to perpetuate this.
    So not only will teachers act as if they are the supreme authority not to be questioned but parents will operate in a hostile manner always feeling that the teachers are out to ” get them” and their children. The atmosphere created is not a very productive one at all.
    At St. Andrew we have been conciously working at improving the relationship between home and school. Our PTA is no longer seen as simply a fundraising body as our parents through various committees work closely with us in several areas integral to school development. Several parents give of their time and expertise in assisting the institution to acheive its goals. The parents have their own office on the campus from which they operate and this has gone a far way in helping to encourage that sense of belonging and importance as stakeholders.
    We have gradually been winning over our teachers to this partnership approach and I must say that I am pleased with how we are progressing. It is true that there are a few individuals who are resistant however the ethos of the school does not make them comfortable and some have left voluntarily while others have been asked to leave.
    It is not always easy to strike the proper balance, as parents need at all times to remember that the educators are the trained professionals and that we are accountable for what takes place in the institution. Educators on the other hand need to recognise and value the wealth of experience and expertise that lies within the resources of the parent body and tap into this.
    It is therefore extremely important that the relationship between parent and teacher be one of consultation and mutual respect. Within the context of such an environment the possibilities are endless. There is so much potential for growth way beyond that which we could have imagined.
    I am certainly experiencing some of that now at ST. Andrew and it really is most gratifying. Yes we do have a far way yet to go but I do believe that we are on the right track.
    Thanks again for all the help that you have given to us at St. Andrew.