There is no shortage of talk in Jamaica today. Indeed, there are merchants of talk who have turned chat into a profitable business and in the process shattered the popular saying that talk is cheap. This is not to say that talk should be discounted or despised. Remember, in the beginning, was the Word. The word is a critical element in the creative process. The problem is when we can only talk and can do little else.
This week is Education Week and there has been a will be a lot of lip service paid to education on all kinds of platforms. Amongst the avalanche of words that will be spoken I wish to salute a few of the many ‘doer’s’ in education. Although this is no random selection, it is also not the result of an exhaustive survey. Rather it is some schools and teachers, across the island, whose work and worth may not be publicly recognized or celebrated because they are not in any high profile places. However, these schools through the leadership of their principals supported by their teachers, students and communities have done well under difficult circumstances.
I wish to recognise, salute and commend:
The principal, staff and students of Martin Primary School in St Mary which re-opened recently. The school building was burnt down. The students were dispersed to surrounding schools. Yet when the school re-opened every one returned. The school has been winners of the Coconut Board Prize for Coconut and Copra Production on several occasions. However, the loyalty displayed suggests that much more has happened in the school apart from its highly successful coconut growing project.
The principal, staff and students of St Alban’s Primary School in West Kingston. Located in a battle zone between warring factions, the school has operated despite intense rivalry between gangs and violence that constantly interrupted normal operations. In circumstances in which many would have run away the principal, teachers and students stood their ground maintained their commitment to education and learning.
The principal, staff, and students of Red Bank All-Age School in St Elizabeth who despite being located in a community of very modest means was able to mobilise community support, build a computer lab and pay its 20 percent share of the cost of the equipment. The teachers then travelled to Junction Comprehensive High, about 10 miles away, several times a week for a year to do the CXC Technical Proficiency course in Computer Studies at their own expense. Not only are the computers being effectively used for instruction in Reading and Mathematics in school, and all of the school records going back to 1950 have been automated, but boys who would normally hang out in the village square at nights are now enrolled in computer classes run by the principal.
The principal, staff and students of Jack’s River Primary School in St Mary who have turned the school around, in terms of the quality of education being offered, through effective use of the assistance given by the Oracabessa Foundation. Not only has the level of literacy of the school leavers greatly improved but the school has become an example and model of what small rural schools can accomplish. What has impressed me is that it is the same principal, teachers, and students that have effected the change. This speaks volumes about the resilience of the human spirit and the capacity to change, which is so often underestimated.
The principal, staff and students of the Giblatore Primary School in St Catherine for its vibrant Parent Teachers Association, effective school feeding programme, good common entrance passes and strong community involvement. While the steep incline to reach the school may be daunting, the school has climbed to the mountaintop of school community engagement and educational achievement.
These five school that I have singled out for mention are but a drop in the bucket of good schools in the country which, despite difficult circumstances, are fulfilling their mission and making a mark. They have not used their circumstances as excuses but rather as challenges to be met. They have not been waiting on the Budget, or Government policies, or bail-outs, or the interest rate to go down. They have understood that times have always been difficult in Jamaica. They have understood that to wait for times and things to be right and favourable before acting is to opt for paralysis. Instead of waiting for things to happen, they have made things happen despite the circumstances. Would that many other sections of the country would heed the example of these schools.
May 5, 1998