Vendors in downtown Kingston say that they have been seeing brisk sales of 'Dunce' branded school bags.
A student was spotted on social media wearing the bag and after making queries, THE STAR found that it is a product of a local company which bases its products on slang. The red bag with black writing boldly accentuated the word 'Dunce' in white letters at the centre. The news team learned that the bag goes for US $74, (approximately J$11,400). The bag is currently sold out on the company's website noting that the bags are in high demand. Vendors also said they had designer brand bags to which their suppliers added the 'Dunce' artwork. Those may cost up to $20,000.
The term 'dunce' has been on the tongues of many Jamaican students since breakout dancehall artiste Valiant said he was "back of the class". The lyrics of his single Dunce Cheque received plenty of criticism from persons, including the de facto information minister Robert Morgan, who opined that they sent negative messages to the youth.
Stewart Jacobs, president for the National Parent Teacher Association of Jamaica, expressed dismay when told about the 'dunce bags'.
"I think it's a derogation of our society as it is now when a child who is not performing to the best of his abilities or has not matriculated to the standards of the education system is usually described as a dunce. Because of the hype surrounding a particular song from a genre, it has now imposed itself on sectors of society who are now seeing it as something they should emulate or to put on a pedestal. It is a very sad state and it is very irresponsible of any parent who would give a child to put their books in it and label it as dunce," Jacobs said.
"I hope that the school system will sanction the wearing of these bags as the children come through the gate, because it's not sending the right message. What it is saying is that it is okay to edify, emulate and big up non-performance. That is what it is, a dunce is a non-performer," he added.
He said that despite the common response that the term is just freedom of expression, a responsible parent wouldn't taint their child as a non-performer.
"You must chart your path in life, and that means you must practise things that resonate with your personality and character. If you are a good performing student why would you want to have a dunce on your back? Why go the total opposite? That would mean that there is a social deficiency," Jacobs stated.
One vendor highlighted that although he is out of stock and will continue to sell the bags, he wouldn't buy it for his child.
"Me believe in God and the Bible tell you that there is power in the tongue, so when my youth a wear one bag and as somebody see him in it, and them say 'dunce dunce', it's like a that them a speak over him life," the vendor said. While his fellow vendor agreed.
THE STAR reached out to the entity that makes the logo, but individuals with whom we spoke said the company head was not available to give a comment.