An opportunity missed

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THE recent call by Archbishop Jason Gordon for values education to be put on the national agenda comes 15 years after another cleric, former Presbyterian Church moderator Rev Elvis Elahie, had not only made the call but initiated action to show how it could be done.

During the period 2007 to 2011, Rev Elahie, one of the more progressive Presbyterian clergymen and in his capacity as moderator of the church, visited most of the Presbyterian primary and secondary schools, meeting with teachers and pupils on an approach to this important matter.

He discussed with them three fundamental questions that confronted young people at that time, and even more so today. These questions were: who am I? Why am I here? How should I live?

The goodly clergyman was seeing the writing on the wall, even though his church’s boards of primary and secondary schools education did not.

The breakdown in the family and school violence did not yet reach the faith-based school system. However, Rev Elahie continued this interaction during the period 2011 to 2015 while serving as deputy principal and then principal of St Andrew’s Theological College.

During this period, Rev Elahie, with the support of the board of the college, chaired by Justice Peter Jamadar, also produced, with the help of a few dedicated educators, a valuesedu cation booklet titled Values For Life. Attempts were made to have this booklet circulated throughout our primary schools in Trinidad and Tobago, but this was not realised.

While serving as minister of the Tableland pastoral region until his retirement, Rev Elahie conducted values-education sessions with Fifth Standard pupils at the four primary schools in that region. This was done regularly, and pupils who were recipients of this intervention recalled with gratitude those experiences.

In 2019-2020, he submitted proposals to the Ministry of Education designed to train teachers in teaching values education. He is still awaiting a response from the ministry.

The Presbyterian primary and secondary schools boards of education missed a good opportunity to lead the way forward. Both these boards allowed a good project to fall by the wayside because they did not anticipate that the breakdown in family life and school violence would have reached critical proportions in the school system.

It would be a disappointment if such useful, public-spirited efforts are laid to waste at this critical time.

Harry Partap Tableland