Thursday, April 27, 2017

30-minute lunch break proposed for schools

‘Proposal has merit’: Anthony Garcia


A 30-minute lunch period instead of one hour in schools is being proposed as a measure to reduce pupil indiscipline and ­violence.
The proposal was made by the National Primary Schools Principals Association (NPSPA), which held a meeting yesterday with Education Minister Anthony Garcia and Minister in the Education Ministry Lovell Francis.
A joint news conference then took place at the Education ­Tower, St Vincent Street, Port of Spain.
NPSPA president Cogland Griffith said the reduced lunch ­period was proposed to the ministry and this initiative means schools would be dismissed earlier, thereby allowing children more time to access community programmes.
This proposal would require a shift in policy and Garcia said this can only be done after consultation.
The minister said his personal view was that the proposal has ­merit.
“We feel there is merit in this proposal. I am not saying we are going to go for it initially... There is merit in this proposal and it needs to be explored a little more,” said Garcia.
He stressed pupils are affected by the country’s violent culture and what they face in the homes and in the public domain.
Undue burden

“We live in a society where students come to school on a morning, having just witnessed their father beating their mother. We live in a society where students sometimes have to step across bodies lying in the streets that was subject of some violent act that resulted in death of those persons.
“We in the school system meet with students who have their own problems—problems of parental neglect, in fact.
“I might be bold to say an employee of this ministry told me yesterday that the reason for his absence from work was because his wife left without a clue as to where she’s going, and with three girls he didn’t know what to do,” said ­Garcia.
He said “undue burden” is placed on the school system and he applauded the “yeoman service” of staff from principals to teachers in working towards reducing the level of school violence and indiscipline.
Garcia said he was a school principal for ten years and understood the challenges faced in running the schools.
Griffith said there has been success in a shorter lunch period in the private schools in this ­country. “What simply happens is that you give a 30-minute break, the children have their lunches in the classroom, they go out, have something to drink and so on and use the wash-room and get back in,” he said.
He said this one-hour lunch period is the teachers’ time, but a reduced lunch time would mean that they would be able to leave earlier.
Griffith said it would also mean children would be able to participate more in ­after-school programmes such as football, cricket, drama, etc.
“We feel if we have a shortened lunch period that we could reduce the incidence of indiscipline and violence in the schools,” he reiterated.
He said he believes teachers would welcome this move.
Questioned on the need for children to socialise and whether the reduced time would hamper this, Griffith responded: “Would you prefer that their hands are broken if that is the socialising?”
He said the shorter time would allow children to eat and play.
He added there are programmes within the school hours such as physical education which allow children to engage in non-academic activities.
Griffith said in his days when he was a pupil, both teachers and pupils would go home for lunch. “The thing has changed and we need to change with the times,” he said, noting there are some 400 children per school and the principal has to monitor the pupils during the lunch hour when the teachers are on break.
Reduced violence

Asked whether the time was sufficient to facilitate the school feeding programme and whether this would not cut into the teachers’ lunch time, as they have to assist in distrusting the lunches, Griffith said it would not.
He said the teachers facilitate the distribution of the lunches.
“It’s not a three-course meal,” he added.
Garcia commended the principals and teachers for their work in reducing school violence as he pointed out the data states there was a decrease in incidents at both the primary and secondary levels.
“We want to take credit for that... it means we are working and we are doing our jobs,” said Griffith.