Columns

Education poison and leadership polls

Franklin JOHNSTON

Friday, August 30, 2013    

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PHONE rings. Pope: Hello Andrew, how things?

AH: Not bad, really. How did you get this number? Who are you again?

Pope: The Pope, I called to give a boost.

AH: Right, Pope, you are the Pope?

Pope: Yes, call me Francis. You are my third overseas call this week.

AH: Is this the Pope from Rome? I read you were phoning people at random. Pope: Yes, and you can call when you are shadow minister again.

AH: What? Right! But we not the same church.

Pope: No problem check me anyway, one God, cool? By the way Andy, I am not the Antichrist.

AH: Mr Pope, can you call me back on my LIME phone as dem bug dis one an' I want you to do something about Aud... (line buzzes) Mr Pope hol on, gi me a numba quick?

Pope: Check Ronnie.

AH: What yu seh? Papa Jesus (call drops), Lawd a massy!

Politicians mindlessly attack education and no one chides them; a real double standard of free speech. Who shouts for them to be fired from their jobs as is done for others? The Jamaica Observer quotes Andrew: "I want to send a clear message that the Jamaica Labour Party has a different strategy from the strategy being employed in education today. What is being employed in education today is poison." The strategy today? Get the facts and fix the problem first time. No teacher is a poisoner, no student poisoned.

As minister he did not execute a "different strategy"; it's not in his manifesto, but now that Audley bruits him he waxes lyrical. Who is Andrew Holness? education guru? opportunist? I have been a critic of education, but to label teachers' efforts "poison", to lay the finitude of death at their feet is massive. I do not know his education pedigree, but it doesn't exceed mine and I can learn. Sir, "clear message" received, now tell us the "different strategy".

Andrew is a good lad promoted to a senior post by zealous party officials. My spirit affirms his youth and family values, but what destructive views? Education is too fragile an ecosystem to be enmeshed in politics. P J Patterson ignited the transformation flame; Burchell, Maxine, Andrew kept it alive, and now Ronnie. His legacy is here too, so why would he wreck it? Some years ago I offered my friend Bruce Golding — glad he is now fit — my plan for Education Renaissance in London, and I agreed to send it if he won, or to Portia if she did. Likewise transformation is JLP and PNP.

Why do we allow reckless men vying for office to insult and malign good men, venerable institutions, the public and excuse it as forgivable campaign trickery? All evil needs is that good people be silent. They build their careers by mashing down our values and climbing on the rubble to rule us. After 50 + 1 years we are on a path to education success — now this? The Ministry mined data and a firm printed some so Jamaica now knows school does not work for 80 per cent of our children. League tables are good once we understand why children underperform. The data shocked us too but don't shoot the messenger let us now target the causes of low performance. Do not demotivate education workers or distress the public with talk of poison. Education is getting better and the best is ahead. Selah!

JLP leadership contest

No one can accuse Andrew of showing courage under pressure — avoiding "bitter medicine", the 2011 elections, the 2012 polls and now his dire education diagnosis in 2013 before another poll as Audley asks "where are you taking the JLP?" Education here is next to God. It made black people; took us from Gem and Texton Road corner to "de worl" and to diss education for selfish reasons must be punished at the polls. Some say a JLP leadership poll is not our affair. The JLP does not belong to members. I hold a lot of JLP stock as I pay taxes; the salary of the leader, all 21 JLP MPs — the SUV, office, pension, health care in Florida and funeral. I pay JLP councillors and millions in CDF to each MP. I have a say in who leads the JLP. Taxpayers must speak up and make sure we get value for money. It is our bounded duty. Selah!

Stay conscious my friend!

Dr Franklin Johnston is a strategist, project manager and advises the minister of education. franklinjohnstontoo@gmail.com

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