Socialisation is a key part of development for any individual. And although virtual socialisation became the norm in 2020 because of the covid19 pandemic, technology education teacher and acting form one dean at Bishop Anstey High School East Lisette Ngui believes that while virtual events have their merits, they have taken away from the value of in-person socialisation among young people.
“Just saying ‘good morning’ to someone now seems like a foreign thing to some of them (students).”
Ngui, along with form one dean at Trinity College East Kim Cleveland recently hosted an Easter formal for their year group at the BATCE auditorium – something they saw as a necessity because of the social challenges some of the students seem to be facing.
“The pandemic has really messed up students in terms of ethics and socialisation, and due to negative light that has been overshadowing this year group, we felt that that we should try to get them to use their creativity for positive instead of negative.”
The students were required to get all dressed up, with the girls making and wearing Easter bonnets, and the boys top hats.
“It was the first event of its type in the school and it was a success. They met and socialised in a healthy manner. They looked beautiful and the boys stepped up like true champions. The hall was buzzing,” Ngui said.
The boys were taught how to escort the girls onto the stage, and because there were 113 girls and 54 boys participating, some of the boys the honour of escorting two girls.
Rianne Hazarie-Joseph told Newsday her 12-year-old son Nasir Joseph was hesitant to take part because he couldn’t see the importance or value of it. But with some encouragement from her, he decided to attend.
“I did it for her basically,” he said. “I was nervous because I wasn’t sure who I would be walking with, and there would be people glaring and taking photos.”
He said they were taught how to pull the chairs out for the girls, take their hands, and walk with them to the stage.
“Then we had to escort them to back to the table, pull out their chairs for them to be seated, then return to our seats.”
They also had to practice basic table manners as they partook from the buffet spread prepared by Gavara's Kitchen and Catering Services.
“We took our plates, got food and sat to eat…No elbows on table, don’t abruptly stand up, no texting, we had to speak to each other…I absolutely loved it!”
Hazarie-Joseph saw the event as an excellent opportunity to help reduce challenges with social interaction between young people of the opposite sex.
“Events like this can teach them what is appropriate, how to engage with each other, that speaking to boys or girls is not taboo once managed in the right setting. It is very commendable…I was 110 per cent behind it. At one point I thought I was turning him out for graduation because he loves teal and I had to go out and get teal a waistcoat, tie and socks,” she said with a laugh.
“Because of pandemic or even their age, some of them tend be introverted. If we as parents don’t encourage them they miss a lot of opportunities to be part of school culture.”
Twelve-year-old Jayden Spencer told Newsday he was a bit nervous at first because he was afraid his friends would make fun of him.
“We were taught how to hold out our arms for the girls and then we had to escort them to the stage. We stood at the front, centre of the stage for a short while and then we escorted them back to table…I really enjoyed being on stage with my hat,” which he said, was the steampunk design inspired by Victorian-era industrialism.
“ I did some research about what I wanted to do and daddy helped me with it. We used items from around the house…It was a nice project…I think another event like this will be beneficial so we can get to mingle and play,” Spencer said.
His mother, Sophia Spencer lauded the initiative.
“I thought it was a lovely idea. He was shy and a bit intimated at first and said, ‘mummy I don’t want to go.’ We coaxed him into it and when the hat started to come along he got excited. After the event his entire attitude and demeanour had changed. He was more confident.”
Aidan Loney, 13, found the event very engaging.
“I escorted two girls. We got to break the ice a bit. I asked questions about school and complimented them. I asked one of them, “you like science?” and she proceeded to explain the periodic table for about five minutes,” Loney said with a chuckle.
His mother Nadia Pierre said it was an excellent initiative.
“It was what they really needed. Being behind a screen and keyboard all day, they really don’t know how to socialise face to face and to connect on an appropriate level. I think they need more etiquette types of sessions.”
Ngui said she was pleased that the students were exposed to this level of socialisation and that the school will continue to host similar age-appropriate events.
“In the past I’ve taken one of my classes to tea at Hilton. We plan to have tea parties at school, as well as ballroom dancing because the students wanted to dance with each other this time.”