JIS News

At one time there would be several fights going on at the same time on the school compound. Teachers would become involved; take students, put them on buses and send them home. Students were consistently late, skipping classes and hiding from examinations.
Thankfully all this has changed. The students at Innswood High School have a renewed purpose and are intent on making a difference in society.
Nestled in the cool plains of St. Catherine, the Innswood High School is a baby in the education system. A newly formed high school, only two years old, Innswood High operates on a two-shift system. Principal Anthony Eubanks, formerly a senior lecturer at the GC Foster College, is charged with steering the school on the right path and has already made some sweeping changes to the face of the school and its students.
Mr. Eubanks went about revamping the school’s curriculum and courses to meet the specific needs of his students based on their skills, aptitude and ability. As a result, students at Innswood High have a number of technical and vocational courses to choose from, whether their course of interest is cosmetology, auto mechanics, computer repairs, or garment manufacturing.
The principal has also brought on board a number of additional examination boards to meet the various levels of the students. The result, according to the school’s teachers, is that “there is a place for anyone who enters Innswood High School”.
“Our vision is success for all. When I just came here, my vision was for every single student to leave Innswood High School with an achievement certificate, and at that time I was thinking of four subjects including a vocational subject. Four subjects would ensure them a place in a tertiary institution or in the industry,” Mr. Eubanks tells JIS News.
In January, the school observed a Values and Attitudes Week, which saw the student body and school administrators coming together to discuss the issue of discipline. It was felt that such a week was not only imperative, but also timely in the context of what is taking place in Jamaica today. The values and attitudes initiative also fell in line with the vision the school’s administrators had for the school.
“During our first term, we developed a five-year school development plan. Within that plan we stated our vision, we stated our objectives (and) we established targets for academic performance and students’ personal development. We believe that for our students to achieve these targets, they have to have the right attitude and values, because these go with success,” the principal continues.
Hugh Davis, chairman of the Values and Attitudes committee at Innswood High explains the school’s thinking: “We are living in a country now where we are being faced with some very serious problems. And to address these problems we definitely have to educate our young children to be more civilised in terms of basic cleanliness, how we dress, how we carry ourselves, how we speak with one another and the basic response we have to one another, to build a better nation.”
In preparation for the observance of Values and Attitudes Week, the students were encouraged to participate in an internal essay and poster competition, outlined by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, under the theme, ‘Indiscipline is preventable’. Each student was asked to create a poster or write an essay highlighting the values and/or kinds of attitudes that should be portrayed.The teachers and administrators at Innswood High linked the Ministry’s thrust for introducing the Values and Attitudes Campaign in schools, with their need to target indiscipline in the school.
Head Boy, Damian Wildman who copped the top prize for his essay, is of the view that the Values and Attitudes Week was a success because the students were exposed to a vast amount of information.He says he has seen a change in many of the students. For example, as the students pass by the flyers highlighting good values and promoting positive attitudes, which have been left posted around the school, they stop and read, which is something previously unheard of. He points out too that the students are now more respectful of the school’s prefects and administrators.
Throughout the week, various private sector and government officials made presentations to the students espousing the kinds of values and attitudes that should be upheld and encouraged. Even teachers and students at Innswood added their voices to the call for better values and attitudes. This was communicated through the pulsating rhythms of the drums which echoed around the school as Dub Poet/Social Studies teacher, Leon DaCosta chanted the words to his poem, ‘Indiscipline’:
“Prevention should be wi intention fi indisciplinary action. Come mek wi focus wi attention back to education weh lead to elevation inna dis ya nation.”The administrators at Innswood High admit that the issues of violence and criminality are difficult to grapple with, in light of the fact that many of their students come from socially-depressed, inner-city communities, where violence is often the order of the day.
“When they come here, they will relate quite a number of incidents to us as teachers, and what we really do is to sit and rap with them and see how best we can get them to change their attitudes from being the ‘don’ or part of the ‘donmanship’.I think the next five or so years down the road, we might change the mind of these younger Jamaicans,” Mr. Davis concludes.
Dean of discipline, George Beckford further adds that the students are “only at the school for about five hours, so when you try to instil and inculcate certain values, when they get back home, they are going right back to what they were before.” He sees the school’s task, therefore, as trying to mould and fashion the students from rough lumps of gold into beautiful and valuable trinkets.
The Dean also laments that poor parenting is one of the factors that creates indiscipline among today’s youth. Expanding on his point, he makes reference to single parents who are overburdened with work; working parents who spend little or no time with their children and leave the television to parent their children.
The plan therefore, is to use the school’s Parents and Teachers Association to get parental and community involvement in the initiative to instil good values and positive attitudes in these children.
Insofar as the Values and Attitudes Week is concerned, everyone hails the observance of the week as an overwhelming success. There has been a significant improvement in the students’ deportment and the way they dress.
The Dean of discipline agrees with Mr. Davis and, although he jokes that he is often seen as the local “Adams” having to enforce the rules of the school, he points out that since the values and attitudes initiative, his job has become considerably easier.
However, he still thinks there is much more room for improvement.
“We have a problem with punctuality. And it’s not endemic to the school. It is endemic to the whole nation, and I would use this medium to say that parents and teachers alike, but so much more on the part of parents, have to ensure that kids stick to time. Time management is very important…and it is difficult to work on without the partnership with parents,” Mr. Davis tells JIS News.
Vice Principal of the Innswood High morning school, Mrs. Jacqueline Boyd-Vassell, is more measured in her celebration and thinks it is still too early to claim success as there is a lot more to be done.
“We have students who have just begun to understand…they are just realising that to be half an hour late, is late and is indiscipline,” Mrs. Boyd-Vassell points out.
The Vice-Principal reveals that the entire teaching staff at Innswood has come together to ensure that the spirit of the Values and Attitudes Week is sustained. Their goal is to encourage the students to be better students, and more importantly, better Jamaicans.
“What we will be doing is to promote a certain set of attitudes and values on a ‘termly’ basis. For each term we will identify the attitudes and values we want to promote and we will make posters and banners and flyers and post them around the school and have a really vigorous campaign,” Mr. Eubanks outlines.
The consensus at Innswood High School is that inculcating good values and positive attitudes in the nation’s youth can only be achieved if there is a concerted and conscious effort in society to implement this campaign – especially in schools. While Principal Eubanks admits that no formal, planned dialogue has been held with other school principals, he is willing to render assistance and share his experiences.

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