Student Leadership Under the Microscope

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An effort is on by the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development to inspire students to lead and get student councils functioning more efficiently.

This was alluded to recently as Senior Education Officer (Secondary) Fernando Carter, addressed a training session for teachers on Developing Student Leaders, held at the Elsie Payne Complex, Constitution Road, St. Michael.

Acknowledging that there had been a struggle in the past to establish and maintain student councils, Mr. Carter told teachers the session would "make a big difference". He pointed out that they were being trained "to empower students to be part of the management of their learning environment and, ultimately, to prepare them to be capable and responsible leaders, whether in the schools’ environment, part of their working experience or in society as a whole".

Teachers were, however, advised not to feel they were "surrendering some of their powers to the student body" and Mr. Carter stressed the student council would just be another method or arm of achieving that objective. "You have a particular job description which empowers you to do what you do and to ensure that teaching and learning and that the right values and attitudes are developed in your students…

"When you are interacting with them you should recognise that may be empowering them will make your job easier for you. Once this process is carried out, you will recognise that the student’s council as an entity and students as a whole, can make school life easier."

It was also stressed that by giving the students "a voice," a dialogue would ensue. Mr. Carter said by talking with students, through the student’s councils, could help to alleviate many of the issues in relation to litter, dress, graffiti, respect for adults and overt sexual activity.

He stated: "Through that dialogue?? where you are emphasising your rights and responsibility and theirs, you can come to some understanding of what should occur in the school environment and how we can all work together to improve it."

Teachers were discouraged from resorting to the use of the "big stick" method, which the senior official said "obviously has not been as effective as it should be or has been in the past". They were instead told to model the leadership they would want engendered in their students.

"This is important to let them recognise that you are not only there for them; you are willing to stand up just as you are encouraging them to stand up for their rights and to have a voice in the school community. If you embrace most of these sentiments, you will find much to your satisfaction the school can be a much better place than it is at present…" Mr. Carter stressed.

It was noted that the training could result in the student council being "a greater reality and a stronger institution" at schools.

Meanwhile, National Technical Officer with the Schools’ Positive Behavioural Management Programme (SPBMP), Nicole Lynch, in providing an overview of the session, noted that the Ministry had recognised that the attempt to have student leaders was thwarted by challenges that included our culture, adult and students’ attitudes at times.?? She stressed: "The aim, therefore, is to examine the issue of student leadership and answer the questions "Why is it important? ??What are the barriers and challenges? What are our roles as the adult leaders in the student leadership environment? and What are the successes that we can draw on for strength as we continue as advocates for student leaderships?"

The workshop was sponsored by UNICEF and formed part of the continuing work of the SPBMP.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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