Letter of the day | Revitalize, Normalize Sunday/Sabbath School | Letters
THE EDITOR, Madam:
From time immemorial, the church has been established as one of the important agents of socialization in Jamaica. A distinctive childhood memory is attending Sunday/Sabbath School, whether or not your parents or guardians were present. Indeed, the old adage, it takes a village to raise a child, is all the more relevant today when a community approach is essential.
With the current wave of violence in schools, much of the blame has been placed on bad parenting. In this regard, a quick Google search on bad parenting in Jamaica revealed the publication of several newspaper articles from 2012. A decade later, in 2022, bad parenting is the buzzword for all ills. social.
Recently, I attended an online class reunion for all second graders, including my seven-year-old, at an elementary school in the corporate sector. The main message from the principal, vice-principal, grade coordinator, teachers, and class representatives was that poor parenting is the cause of many school problems, including bullying, stealing, lying, and fights. No surprises there! Bad parenting is indeed a troublesome issue. As stakeholders – state, school, church, community and home – we all have a responsibility to ensure that the fundamental rights of children are respected, as set out in the Convention on the Rights of the child.
It is heartbreaking, extremely painful to read stories of students being stabbed at school, fatally or otherwise. It is even more difficult to understand how the affected parents will cope. The increase in vicious forms of violence in schools is abundantly evident if we follow the news reports.
There are many short and long term strategies that need to be implemented for a healthy education system. One such structured, national, and long-term approach is an enhanced Sunday and Sabbath School program. Now, more than ever, a non-denominational approach is needed to deal with the issues plaguing our society. It has been observed that many denominations have their own variations of Sunday/Sabbath School. Implementing a strong program of values and attitudes from a Christian perspective is helpful in minimizing some of our social ills.
What really is the purpose and relevance of the church in today’s society? Is it to entertain? Is it to collect tithes and offerings? Is it to serve those in need, including our children? We must radicalize our approach to ministry by serving the needs of society. A basic need in our Jamaican society today is a good program of values and attitudes. The church is so ready to undertake this in a way that is healthy and complementary to other short to medium term violence prevention and positive behavior programs employed by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and other key stakeholders, such as the United Nations. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the National Parent Support Commission.
Instead of looking at poor parenting as one of the causes of crime and violence in Jamaica, let’s conceptualize and implement meaningful strategies that can be helpful in this regard. One purported strategy is the national revitalization and standardization of Sunday and Sabbath schools. In the pre-COVID era, attendance at some of these sessions was low. Even with the reopening of schools in the current “COVID era of management,” many Sunday and Sabbath Schools remain online or have not reopened in a meaningful and structured way.
There are many benefits to be had from Sunday/Sabbath School. First, children can benefit from a principled Christian upbringing that contributes to good values and attitudes and a better knowledge of religious education. Second, Sunday/Sabbath School serves as a safety net in some ways, as meals, refreshments, stationery, books, and even clothing are usually provided. Third, students benefit from additional literacy and numeracy lessons integrated into an integrated curriculum. Fourth, the physical environment mirrors that of the classroom with engaging teaching aids, technology-infused delivery, and diverse seated activities. Finally, students benefit from additional opportunities to socialize and play in a supervised setting. The culmination of an annual Sunday/Sabbath School program usually involves a Vacation Bible School which is taught in the summer when the children are on vacation.
These are unprecedented times that call us to be more consistent, focused and radical in our approach to Christian ministries – of which Sunday/Sabbath School is probably the largest ministry. It’s time to get back to basics, all on deck!
Communication specialist and language trainer