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by Brian Kazaara
Ms. Camille Swapp
Report from: The Joyful Learning Seminar at the Knutsford Court Hotel, March 5.
There have been many advancements in our collective understanding of brain development in children and adolescents over the last few decades; but is this reflected in our current educational system?
That was one of the many questions put forward at this year’s Joyful Learning Seminar.
Camille Swapp, of Swapp & Associates, stated that its mandate was to “raise societal awareness on the developmental needs of children, adolescents and emerging young adults.”
Ms. Swapp’s experience with troubled youngsters from different parts of the world served as motivation to try and repair some of the ongoing issues that face young persons in Jamaica.
This was the third public forum hosted by Swapp & Associates, but this being her first in Jamaica. She had previously worked in Trinidad for several years where she launched her first two public forums.
It was a full house at the Knutsford Court Hotel Conference Room, and Ms. Swapp put on a presentation for her audience that was informative and entertaining in equal measure.
Filled with several references to world-renowned experts and peer-reviewed studies, alongside absorbing personal anecdotes, there was never a dull moment. To supplement her message, she also included video interviews with children and parents from both Trinidad and Jamaica.
Information aside, her passion was on full display and at times was electrifying. One of her most salient points during this discussion was the need for both parents, educators and policy makers to ensure that children enter primary school when they are developmentally ready and not just when they reach a certain age.
She was also sharply critical of a system that does not make provisions for the individual needs of each student, but rather applies a “one size-fits-all” approach to education, which allows some to succeed but is not as fortuitous for others.
There are not enough persons who are aware of the new insights we have on the developmental needs of children at different stages.
Swapp’s intention is to inform as many persons as she can, but she understands the limitation of her reach. To that end she has called for a “Public Health Approach” advising the public on what learning and schooling practices have been proven most beneficial for children.
This approach would include infomercials on local television along with informative pieces online, on the radio and in the newspapers.
The panelists were all distinguished stakeholders in this discussion. They included Dr. Ganesh Shetty; noted Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Dr. Kai Morgan; an experienced clinical psychologist and lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Dr. Tamika Benjamin; National Mathematics Coordinator with the Ministry of Education and Mr. Charles Clayton; programme director of the planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ).
Each weighed in on the issues with their unique personal and professional perspectives. Their discussion on how culture and class affect learning and mental health in children was particularly enlightening.
The audience was also active in the discussion with several persons giving their own commentary or asking questions.
Ms. Swapp closed the seminar with a call to action for all who attended. Having been provided information on the relationship between brain developments, learning and emotional maturity, she passionately pleaded that we try and enact the change she feels is needed for a better Jamaica where all children can experience “joyful learning.”
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