Displaying items by tag: Education

By Nicole Stanbury

So, the Jamaica Labour Party’s 79th annual conference has come and gone.

What did you make of the presentation by the Prime Minister and Leader of the party, Andrew Holness?

Some are saying that it went out like a damp squib, obviously disappointed that there weren’t any fireworks from the platform to lift the mood of the country.

Despite the fact that he was addressing mostly green-blooded supporters, it must have been a difficult speech to deliver. But the PM must be given credit for his guile.  Oh, how he has matured into his leadership roles. Yesterday he followed the basic rule. When there is nothing earth shattering or change defining to say, keep it brief!

As far as conference speeches go, he was in and out in a flash. This was much to the chagrin of those in attendance who would have loved for the party to have extended into the late afternoon hours.

Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the brevity, the PM touched on most of the priority issues affecting the country.

He said he was surprised at the results of the gun amnesty. He revealed that a total of 90 guns and some 2000 rounds of ammunition were surrendered. Come on now Mr PM! If you seriously expected less, why was so much money spent on an extensive public awareness campaign.

Many people will say…’I told you so!’. But that’s quite OK Mr Holness…you have been given points for effort. At least the people have seen that you are trying. Jamaica was not in a state of readiness for an amnesty. Criminalty involving guns is a booming enterprise in the country. Guns and ammunition are seen as tools of trade and those who are active participants will say they see no alternative. Perverse as their reasoning might be, its foundation is in the logic of human nature. The nation has to provide its young people with viable alternate routes, because the gangs are on all-out recruitment exercises every day. And they have a well-supplied pipeline in the education system.

Speaking of education, that was a rather disappointing element of the presentation. Jamaican parents need the highest level of reassurance that there will be a full transformation of the sector. Yes, seven modern schools will be built and that will always be good news. It would have been nicer though, if he had outlined a plan to retrofit and modernize the existing schools where in this day and age, chalkboards still separate classes and teaching and learning are monumental tasks. He should have outlined a plan to take back the schools from gangs and disruptive students.

The PM spoke to the appointment of an education Czar. That is a tried and failed approach in many areas of the society. School is place where positive values should displace the negative mores of society and serious attention must be given to the socialization of students to become model citizens. One could wager a bet that if focus is returned to nurturing good human beings, most of Jamaica’s ills will be remedied in 10-20 years.

On the much-anticipated matter of crime, there was nothing new. He reached out to the opposition, soliciting support for extensions of the states of emergency now in force across seven parishes. But even If the opposition flips on its stated position of not supporting any extension, under the current law states of emergency can only be prolonged for specified periods.

This is a matter that is pregnant for meaningful debate in the parliament. If the states of emergency bring about real results in crime reduction, why not make them a tool that is available for longer periods, if not indefinitely, until the demons are exorcised? Surely the country will come together in what would be the boldest effort to finally bring about peace and stability.

Devoid of details but welcomed, was the announcement that the military and the police are about to change tactics in the fight against crime. Jamaica will once again be turning to its larger partners, the United States in particular, to aid in the effort. Mr Holness rightly acknowledged that many of the criminal enterprises in the country are either fomented or supported by Jamaican gangsters living overseas. While the overseas partners hunt the criminals and disrupt their supply routes for guns and money, the Jamaican security forces will have to increase the intensity and accuracy with which they go after the counterparts in Jamaica. No stone should be left unturned in brining cronies, including close relatives to book through proper intelligence gathering.

Welcomed also is the plan to increase the surveillance capacity at the ports. But again, he needs to go a step farther. It has been an open secret for decades that the country’s air and seaports operations are rife with corruption. There should be greater internal scrutiny to identify facilitators of criminal activity such as the transshipment of guns and drugs by agents of the state, and implement seriously uncompromising penalties for those convicted. The PM should also look at investing more heavily in patrol vehicles and equipment at the parish level. There should be a coast guard base in every parish with 24-hour patrols to secure the country’s very pervious coastline.  

The Prime Minister touched on a rather disturbing issue for many Jamaicans, the wanton corruption in the penal system which allows prisoners to conduct their affairs in the outside world from behind bars. To this end, he plans to build a state-of-the art maximum security facility with signal jamming technology to prevent the use of cellphones and other communication devices. He needs to order a comprehensive review of the correctional system. One of Jamaica’s most influential music stars, Vybz Kartel,  lives behind bars and is getting on with his career in plain hearing of even the PM. So, it’s not the facilities that are the problem. Prison is not meant to be a bed of roses. It is the rotten system that governs them and the public can’t wait for a new punishment regime to come into place for corrupt correctional officers.

He might have won a bouquet had he been bold enough to gauge the temperature on the use of the death penalty.  He needs not come under any pressure over this hot-button issue. He simply needs to add it as a referendum item to the upcoming local government elections ballot.

He spoke briefly on the state of the economy but many people aren’t buying the argument that all is well and getting better. The realities on the ground simply do not reflect that.

Overall, the speech was an average mid-term presentation. It will be interesting to the direction in which things will over the next year as the party will no doubt be anticipating a bumper conference for its 80th anniversary.  

Whatever happens, it will be a tough year for both the governing party which will be pressed on deliverables, and the opposition PNP that will have to find its feet and get a rhythm going.

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The 2022/2023 academic year officially gets underway today and the Minister of Education Ministry has expressed confidence that adequate preparations have been made for the resumption of  classes.
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