Thank your Madam President for your invitation to attend and address the Annual General Meeting and Bi-annual Conference of the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica.  I am quite pleased with this initiative and what it represents for us as a developing society.  I offer my sincere commendations to the founders and present leader of the NPTAJ. 

My presence here is a clear indication of my support and wish for its continued strength and longevity.  This is a vibrant, dynamic and important organisation and it is fitting that at a time like this, we are bringing together parents and teachers for the benefit of our children.

Such a collaboration will definitely consolidate the elements needed to educate and train our children, on whom our future existence depends.

With the formation of the NPTAJ four years ago, a medium was created that would facilitate greater partnership among parents, teachers and the school community.  Critical to the success of this venture, is the extent to which parents’ involvement in their children’s education extend outside of the home.   The home is the first school but the involvement of parents goes beyond the home.

I am reminded that this is a voluntary organisation.  I want to commend the individuals who remind us that the spirit of volunteerism is not lost in Jamaica.

Steps to training young minds
Obviously there must be a process for the training of our children. The education of our children – the molding and training of youthful minds – is the most delicate work ever entrusted to humans.  Parenting can be difficult but it is also enjoyable and fulfilling!  The mind is the capital of the body and a terrible thing to waste.  We should take great care to ensure that the high and noble powers of the mind can be inspired into positive action. 

  • We must start Early:    We are all aware that the education of our children does not start when they enter the formal school structure.  It commences earlier – at home.  Parents you are the primary source of your children’s early education.
  • Sociologists will tell you that the home or family is the major agent of primary socialization.  You have a responsibility to take charge of instilling basic values and discipling your children so that the classroom can be reserved for expanding their education.

  • Presently our teachers are preoccupied with addressing discipline and behavioural problems and enough time is not left for academic instruction.

  • Early instruction shapes children’s character in both their religious and secular lives and helps them to understand the difference between right and wrong from a young age.  The good book says: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

  • So encourage balance: Parents and teachers, one of the things we must understand is that education not is limited to book work and preparation for examinations.  We must encourage balance.  The physical, mental, moral and religious education of children must be carefully addressed.

  • Values such as self-control, kindness and caring with empathy for one another must be simultaneously ingrained in their consciousness alongside academic studies.  A child who has had the benefit of both is likely to be more socially and mentally balanced.
  • Too many children have had their minds taxed with lessons when they should be outdoors enjoying nature and developing their muscles and brain in some sort of hobby.  Exercise builds muscles and increases blood flow.
  • There is a time for everything under the sun.  A time to study and a time to play. Parents and teaches should teach children how to alternate between study and activity periods.  This combined with proper eating and sleeping habits will allow them to pursue their education without sacrificing their mental and physical health.

  • We must also promote their intellect and individual identity:    In our efforts to educate our children we need to recognize their intelligence and unique qualities and encourage them to think for themselves.

  • There are instances where children appear to be disciplined individuals because they are under a set of strict orders. But when the system which holds them to a set of rules changes, or they change environment, they have difficulty thinking, acting or making decisions on their own.
  • When they are in situations where they are not allowed to think or act for themselves, they do not develop self-confidence and they do not learn to have an opinion of their own.
  • Unfortunately, they are easily led by others because that has been their life experience, and very often they make poor judgments.  We don’t want our children to be robots, we what them to function for themselves.

  • Use experience as a guide:    On the other hand, children should not be left to think or act independently of the wisdom and judgment of parents and teachers.  They should be taught to respect experienced judgment and be guided by the wisdom of their parents and teachers.
  • This is best achieved when you gain their love and you win their confidence, rather than being overly demanding or commanding.  When they go away from your guiding hands, they will not be like sand on the sea shore driven with the wind and tossed about, but will rely on the wise counsel and instruction you gave them during their youth.

Model Father
I want to pay special tribute to those fathers who have come out to join the group and show that their children are important to them.  The reality in Jamaica is that in many instances we do not have both parents involved in the raising and education of their children, and often it is the father who is missing.  Sometimes however we have some vignettes worth celebrating.

A few weeks ago we celebrated Father’s Day; it didn’t have the flair and excitement that Mothers’ Day seems to attract.  There were two articles in the print media that caught my attention: the first was a feature article about someone who had been chosen as the ‘Model Father of the Year.’  His son who nominated him said, “I cannot remember a person in my life that had a more significant influence on me than my father.” 

When parents are influential in the lives of their children they help determine who they become and what they achieve. 

This model father was described as an influential force behind his children’s academic achievement.  He taught them self-esteem.  He demonstrated the difference between right and wrong, disapproved of inappropriate behaviour, and he taught them to see the value in everything. 

The characteristics of this model father as reported, contrasted with the second article which was a commentary on fatherhood in the ‘Letter of the Day’.  In that letter, the writer addressed the matter of juvenile delinquency among males in Jamaica and the United States of America.  He cited one major commonality between both countries: that is, many young men did not grow up with a full-time father.  He concluded that where a father is absent from the home, the opportunity for juvenile delinquency increases dramatically.  It is therefore very very important that we encourage fathers to be involved in the lives of their children.

Successive research in the social and behavioural sciences, constantly highlight the importance of a father-figure in the parenting of children.  We recall the Fatherless Crew of the 1980’s and 1990’s.  This was a group of young men, many of them teenagers, who had lost their fathers in gun violence during the turbulent ‘1970’s.  They formed a gang and were determined to have their revenge on society.  We hope we won’t have any more fatherless crew.

Parents must be present see to the education of their children. Fathers however are unique in that they provide something different from mothers in child rearing.  When they are absent, children are affected emotionally and socially, and develop behavioural problems.  Children learn by example and experience and so fathers must be the significant influence in their lives. 

By turning the spotlight on parenting and family values, your National Parent-Teacher Association Madam President, is helping to reposition the family supported by the school community, as the primary social unit.  Children need role models who can show them pathways to responsible adulthood, and parents and teachers must continue to work together in this regard.  This is where the indispensability of your association is showing itself.

Values and morals are best internalized when backed by parents who love, support and care for their children.    When you are a responsible, caring, strict but understanding parent, your children develop their own self-confidence and are motivated to achieve their goals.  Good parenting does not always tell children what to do, but reassures them that they can achieve.

Always have a positive note for your children.  Believe in them and let them know that you believe in them.  Tell them yes you can.  Keep saying to your children I believe in you.

I applaud the National Parent Teacher Association of Jamaica for using this meeting to further unite parents and teachers in their efforts to restore those values that are the hallmark of the Jamaican society. 

Best wishes and successes in your future undertakings.  I thank you.