Disrespectful and downright ignorant!
That is how President of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) Paul Simba Rock is describing recent statements by child rights advocate Faith Marshall-Harris questioning the effectiveness of homeschooling.
Delivering a position paper at the weekend on what should be contained in the laws of Barbados to ensure this country was fully compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Marshall-Harris suggested that parents who chose to homeschool their children were depriving the young ones access to the best training and education, along with the necessary recreation, leisure and social programmes.
The former Juvenile Court magistrate also linked the process to child abuse, telling her audience it was necessary “for the State to employ extreme vigilance to leave no room for abuse and neglect masquerading as homeschooling.
“There are many fallacies abounding with regard to homeschooling . . . . I ask myself whether a child should be forced to accept a sub-standard level of education, and a lack of social interaction because his or her parents have decided to so deprive them,” she said.
This did not go down well with the AHF, which today derided the UNICEF Children’s Champion for Barbados.
“We the members of the African Heritage Foundation find [this to be] un-researched, uninformed, non-progressive, disrespectful and downright ignorant,” Rock said.
He charged that Marshall-Harris had insulted Barbadian parents who chose to homeschool their children, insisting that those who did were well aware of the value of education, and for the most part, wanted their children to be properly educated.
In addition, Rock said, the majority of parents who keep their children away from public schools did so because they had “serious issues of contention” with the school system.
“These contentions may come from religious discriminations at public schools that are Euro-Christian in their philosophies, uncontrolled environments that have led to a rise in bullying, school fights, sexual activities and disrespect for self and others, just to name a few,” Rock said.
During her presentation, Marshall-Harris had ridiculed the fine imposed on those found guilty under the Education Act of not sending their charges to school, arguing that the $50 charge was “derisory” and that it should be increased substantially.
In his statement today Rock questioned the wisdom of such a recommendation, contending that harsher punishment made little sense.
“How does this actually address the abovementioned concerns of the parents?” he asked.
Homeschooling was catapulted into the national spotlight in September after Rastafarian parents Charles Ijui Jah Lashley and Kim Isartes Ibre Jackman were found guilty of breaching Section 41 Clause (b) of the Education Act, Chapter 41 on the grounds that there was no record of their two children — a boy and a girl both under the age of 12 — ever attending formal classes.
The two were later allowed to walk free when Magistrate Douglas Frederick dismissed the case after the prosecution attempted to add dates to the offences on the day the two were due to find out their fate, much to the consternation of the defence attorneys.
While she did not make specific mention of the case during her presentation,
Marshall-Harris had spoken of outcries by some people about a 12-year-old’s demonstrated ability to read, in an attempt to show that he was receiving the proper level of education at home.
“Is that the yardstick to be used?” she asked at the time.
The AHF leader today used Marshall-Harris’ own words against her as he dismissed the statement as “unfounded”.
“Ms Marshall-Harris ignorantly states in her presentation . . . the outcries by some people [were] over the treatment of the family on viewing the video of the 12 year old son Ijuijah Sifahne, demonstrating his ability to read. [Her statements] were unfounded. Is that the yardstick to be used?” he asked.
Rock argued that the video was of the 12-year-old reading from the Barbados Constitution, a section that relates to religious freedoms in regards to education.
He said the Rastafarian parents had since “consented to having their children enrolled in the homeschooling service the AHF is building, which is being used as a supplement to the schooling the children are already receiving at home.
“As a result of this, the children are being given additional tutoring in Mathematics, English and Spanish,” the AHF president emphasized.