Christian bunch warning against protocols for academy devotions

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The Association of Christian Communicators and Media (ACCM) has cautioned the Ministry of Education and Youth against the imposition of protocols for devotional sessions in public schools. 

The caution comes after the Ministry on Wednesday said it had launched an investigation to help determine the protocols for school devotional exercises.

This followed the incident at Oberlin High School on Wednesday morning that forced the early closure of the West Rural St Andrew-based institution after a number of students began “acting abnormally” during devotion.

“While we encourage devotion in school, our school leaders have a responsibility to exercise caution as to content and likely impact on students as evidenced by the reaction of students at Oberlin High School …” said Education Minister Fayval Williams in a statement Wednesday evening.

But, ACCM with its own statement on Friday said it has taken note of the declared intention of the Minister of Education to move towards a possible implementation of protocols for devotions in public schools. 

“Any such move must take into account the fact that the public school system, for the most part, was established on moral and legal foundation, grounded in the Christian faith. 

“It is on this solid foundation that the majority of the traditional institutions of learning were built,” said ACCM. 

The association argued that the Christian worldview provides a sound moral footing for students, especially at this time when Jamaicans have been witnessing worrying levels of anger, strife, physical and even fatal altercations within the student population, and even against teachers.

“The extraordinarily high rates of crime and violence in the wider society are clearly spilling onto school compounds and the nation is becoming a dangerous place for all. Jamaica has had the advantage of watching other countries dismantle the moral and Christian floorboards and observing the negative impacts on children and families,” ACCM noted. 

It asserted that “The role of the Church as a moral and spiritual guide, Godly presence and peacekeeper must not be dismantled, diminished or dismissed”. 

It added that “despite our penchant for violence and disorder, Jamaicans, at the heart, are a God-fearing and peace-loving people and the Church must be at the forefront of this battle for the soul of our country”. 

The association noted further that “It is to our credit that culturally we remain committed to the continuation of Christian worship in our educational institutions and while there may need to bring some amount of order to this, it must be in the direction of affirming the greater need for devotion and ensuring that worship remains a fixed item on the curriculum”. 

It said the importance of worship in the life of a child is well documented in our Constitution. 

“The Children (Guardianship and Custody) Act sets out the principles on how questions relating to custody, upbringing, etc. of children are to be decided. The statute, as well as common-law, recognize the welfare of the child as the first and paramount consideration,” it said. 

Of note is that the education minister did not speak to a ban on devotional exercises in the nation’s schools. Rather, she said the review was based on the fact that classes were dismissed early at Oberlin High after a series of events led to a disruption of normal activities.

The minister said the school administration reported that during the devotional exercise, a teacher who was leading the worship had an experience that included an extended period of “speaking in tongues” which triggered a chain reaction of similar expression among some students.

“Some students reportedly became overwhelmed, some falling to the ground. Other students and teachers attempted to bring calm to the situation including praying with the affected children. Some were taken to the school nurse’s office,” said Willaims.

The minister shared that after the devotions students were sent to classes.

However, the heightened agitated environment led some students to express being afraid and others showed what was described as “abnormal behavior”.

The administration said that given the circumstances school was dismissed at 10:00 a.m. and students were allowed to leave except for those on PATH who were allowed to stay on the compound to collect their lunches.

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