Graduating students of the Ellerton Primary School yesterday received perhaps the most sobering message of any graduating class this year.
In a frank and “real” address to the student during their graduation ceremony, principal of the Government Industrial School, Erwin Leacock, warned the students to understand clearly that unwise decisions made at secondary school could haunt them for a very long time.
After making the students aware he was responsible for “holding in custody and raising” children who the courts had confined for everything from capital offences to petty crimes, he warned them he would be straight talking with a message directed more at those who did not necessarily to well at school.
“My focus is primarily those who are challenged, and not those who have done well… There are a number of children who are almost forgotten each year… We emphasise and we focus on those who want to be doctors, lawyers, pilots etc, and very often we do not recognise the aspiration of persons who have not done well.
“We need to change that … because if the dreams and potential of those persons go unfulfilled, they will come back at you — pay me now or pay me later. If you do not cater to and guide those persons now, at an age when they can be influenced, you are going to see them one dark night over you in your bedroom. You may not recognise the face, but these are the ones that will come back at you.
“And we as a society have to start understanding that the dreams of all have to be encouraged — not just a few. These young people here are going to be given a wake-up call, a reality check, very soon. They are leaving primary school and going to secondary school.
“Graduates, the world that you are going to enter some of you don’t even have a road map for yet… And I think we need to stop looking in the old book and recognise that some of the challenges are totally different from what you as parents have experienced…”
The head of the 130 year old reform institutions for boys and girls under 16 years noted: “A lot of schools and a lot of graduation ceremonies focus on dreams. Do you know what a dream is? A dream is just an aspiration, what you really want… Your parents know what dreams are… When you go home you ask your parents what they dreamt about when they were your age. You ask them what they are dreaming about now, because dreams are not only peculiar to children…
“You have to start thinking about the dreams that you want… Some of your dreams as children will be short term, but there are things that can effect your dreams for the long term, and this is where my work focuses, on correcting the mistakes, and trying to deal with things that can mess up your dreams.”
Leacock told the students that from the moment they enter secondary schools they should be alert to the things that can “mess up your life at a very early age, some of the things that can get you in trouble”.
“You have to be careful of friends, you have to be careful of following people, you have to be careful of making decision you may regret later…,” the educator added.
“If you want to be a police officer, if you want to join the Barbados Defence Force you have to be extremely careful of some decisions you make while at secondary schools… Don’t go and put a tattoo on you hand because you are not going to get in. Don’t put two earrings in your ear because you are not going to get in…
“Girls, the first boyfriend, don’t write his name on your skin. I like to be practical… I am talking about things that can ruin your personal dreams,” explaining that a future husband will have a hard time accepting such tattoos. (RRM)