The African Heritage Foundation is taking this opportunity to respond to recent statements made by child advocate Faith Marshall-Harris while delivering a position paper over the weekend on what should be contained in the laws of Barbados to ensure this country is fully compliant with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).
Mrs. Marshall-Harris has made some assertions that we the members of the African Heritage Foundation (AHF) find unresearched, uninformed, non-progressive, disrespectful and downright ignorant.
We will first address her allusion to abuse and neglect “masquerading as homeschooling.” This is an insult to Barbadian parents. Barbadian parents are well aware of the value of education and for the most part want their children to be educated. The majority of situations in which children are kept away from the public school environment derive from parents having serious issues of contention with the school system. These contentions may come from religious discrimination's 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. Even the parents who may not show interest in their children’s educational development want their children to be educated. And there are other parents who find it financially challenging to get their children to school on a regular basis and thus opt to keep their children at home.
We are also incensed at the solution she presents for parents failing to send their children to school – an increased fine or harsher punishments. How does this actually address the abovementioned concerns of the parents?
The AHF has been working with Mr. Charles “Ijui Jah” Lashley and his partner Ms. Kim “Isartes Ibre” Jackman regarding the matter of homeschooling their children. Ms. Marshall-Harris ignorantly states in her presentation to Frank Collymore Hall that the outcries by some people over the treatment of the family on viewing the video of the 12 year-old son, Ijuijah Sifahne, demonstrating his ability to read were unfounded. “Is that the yardstick to be used? A 12 year-old reading certain prepared passages from a Bible is not necessarily indicative of his having received a well-rounded education,” she stressed. The video that caused the awakening of the masses to the situation was the 12 year-old reading from the Barbados Constitution, a section that relates to religious freedoms in regard to education. This was read for us on camera after he had read other material we had with us. Further to this, Ijuijah Sifahne and his 9 year-old sister, Idartesibre Sirine, were given an educational assessment by a professional who renders these services to the Ministry of Education when needed. Since then, Mr. Lashley and Ms. Jackman have 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. We stress that they continue to be taught by their parents as they were before and they are also enjoying their interactions with their tutors and thus their education.
General Facts, Statistics, and Trends
- Homeschooling – that is, parent-led home-based education; home education – is an age-old traditional educational practice that a decade ago appeared to be cutting-edge and “alternative” but is now bordering on “mainstream” in the United States. It may be the fastest-growing form of education in the United States. Home-based education has also been growing around the world in many other nations (e.g., Australia, Canada, France, Hungary, Japan, Kenya, Russia, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and the United Kingdom).
- A demographically wide variety of people homeschool – these are atheists, Christians, and Mormons; conservatives, libertarians, and liberals; low-, middle-, and high-income families; black, Hispanic, and white; parents with Ph.D.s, GEDs, and no high-school diplomas. One study shows that 32 percent of homeschool students are Black, Asian, Hispanic, and others (i.e., not White/non-Hispanic) (Noel, Stark, & Redford, 2013).
Reasons and Motivations for Home Educating
The most common reasons given for homeschooling are the following:
- customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
- accomplish more academically than in schools,
- use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
- enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
- provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults,
- provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, racism, and improper and unhealthy sexuality associated with institutional schools, and
- teach and impart a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview to children and youth.
- The home-educated typically score 15 to 30 percentile points above public-school students on standardized academic achievement tests. A 2015 study found Black homeschool students to be scoring 23 to 42 percentile points above Black public school students (Ray, 2015).
- Homeschool students score above average on achievement tests regardless of their parents’ level of formal education or their family’s household income.
- Whether homeschool parents were ever certified teachers is not related to their children’s academic achievement.
- Degree of state control and regulation of homeschooling is not related to academic achievement.
- Home-educated students typically score above average on the SAT and ACT tests that colleges consider for admissions.
- Homeschool students are increasingly being actively recruited by colleges
Social, Emotional, and Psychological Development (Socialization)
- The home-educated are doing well, typically above average, on measures of social, emotional, and psychological development. Research measures include peer interaction, self-concept, leadership skills, family cohesion, participation in community service, and self-esteem.
- Homeschool students are regularly engaged in social and educational activities outside their homes and with people other than their nuclear-family members. They are commonly involved in activities such as field trips, scouting, 4-H, political drives, church ministry, sports teams, and community volunteer work.
Gender Differences in Children and Youth Respected?
One researcher finds that homeschooling gives young people an unusual chance to ask questions such as, “Who am I?” and “What do I really want?,” and through the process of such asking and gradually answering the questions home-educated girls develop the strengths and the resistance abilities that give them an unusually strong sense of self.
Success in the “Real World” of Adulthood
The base of research conducted on adults who were home educated is growing; thus far it indicates that they:
- participate in local community service more frequently than do the general population,
- vote and attend public meetings more frequently than the general population,
- go to and succeed at college at an equal or higher rate than the general population,
- by adulthood, internalize the values and beliefs of their parents at a high rate.
Former magistrate Mrs. Marshall-Harris must know ‘Our Children Are Our Own”. Education will not go down as Death by Misadventure, Mrs Marshall-Harris.
In closing I will refer to two articles from a summary of the rights under the Convention on the Rights of the Child:
Article 5 (Parental guidance): Governments should respect the rights and responsibilities of families to direct and guide their children so that, as they grow, they learn to use their rights properly. Helping children to understand their rights does not mean pushing them to make choices with consequences that they are too young to handle. Article 5 encourages parents to deal with rights issues "in a manner consistent with the evolving capacities of the child". The Convention does not take responsibility for children away from their parents and give more authority to governments. It does place on governments the responsibility to protect and assist families in fulfilling their essential role as nurturers of children.
Article 14 (Freedom of thought, conscience and religion): Children have the right to think and believe what they want and to practice their religion, as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights. Parents should help guide their children in these matters. The Convention respects the rights and duties of parents in providing religious and moral guidance to their children. Religious groups around the world have expressed support for the Convention, which indicates that it in no way prevents parents from bringing their children up within a religious tradition. At the same time, the Convention recognizes that as children mature and are able to form their own views, some may question certain religious practices or cultural traditions. The Convention supports children's right to examine their beliefs, but it also states that their right to express their beliefs implies respect for the rights and freedoms of others.