THE EDITOR: Children were away from school for well over two years and while the measure was to protect them from contracting the covid19 virus and becoming seriously ill or dying, there is no gainsaying the many other side effects that came along with their absence. For this reason, it is my view that the July-August vacation should have been shortened to three or four weeks.
We are bombarded in the daily newspapers about criminal activity throughout the country, heinous and brutal crimes leading to fatalities. The homicide rate may well put us in the top five countries in the world for the wrong reasons. I submit that the policymakers get to understand that one of the most effective forms of crime prevention is achieved through education.
Let’s get back to children and the effect of their long absence from school. School absence leads to less social interaction and can result in some children completely losing touch with friends. Scientists at the Norwegian Social Research (NOVA) institute in a study compared youths with and without close friends to confide in and found that a significantly greater proportion of those lacking a close friend reported having more depressive symptoms than those with close friends.
The extended period that children were away from school brought about limited interaction with other children. Some children ended up completely losing their social network. In my teacher training years, some 46 years ago, I learned that birth to five years were the most important years in a child’s development. Recent brain research indicates that birth to age three is now the most important period in a child’s development.
This just goes to show how important home life and pre-school are for the furtherance of education. As the child gets to primary and then secondary school, social support from friends and peers helps to protect adolescents from mental disorders.
The mission of the Ministry of Education should be focused on developing sound educational policies that enable the creation of a knowledge-based society. It is imperative that it provides equitable, inclusive and quality education and lifelong learning opportunities to all children and harnesses their full potential to become productive citizens.
Parents have a great role to play in the education of their children. This brings to mind two famous quotes. One, from Benjamin Franklin, says, “A good example is the best sermon.” The other, from James Baldwin, says, “Children have never been very good at listening to their elders but they have never failed to imitate them.” And one can never leave out the proverb, “Example is better than precept.”
The ministry will be hamstrung if parents don’t play their part and show genuine interest in their child’s education.
Education is the key to preventing crime. Less educated people are more likely to be convicted and their children are more likely to commit crimes. A population that is better educated has less unemployment, reduced dependence on public assistance programs and provides greater tax revenue.
Education plays a key role in the reduction of crime, improved public health and greater political and civic engagement. Education is a powerful tool for breaking the cycle of poverty, supporting child survival, growth, development and well-being, and closing the gap in social inequality and, as a consequence, reducing criminal activity.