Last week, as the nation rightly fussed over the tragic rape of five females, including an eightyear-old, in Irwin, St James, the annual Adult Learners’ Week passed with little more than a whimper.
The theme “Golden Opportunities through Lifelong Learning” was never going to be able to compete for media headlines, even if education is the best bet against such horrendous events as rape and other vilolent crimes.
But Adult Learners’ Week 2012, a creation of the Jamaican Council for Adult Education (JaCAE), unearthed the wonderful story of Ralphton Peart who read the second lesson at the church service which kicked off the week’s activities on September 23 at the Sts Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Liguanea, St Andrew.
Peart is a graduate of the former Jamaica Movement for the Advancement of Literacy (JAMAL), now rebranded the Jamaican Foundation for Lifelong Learning (JFLL). He went on to complete HEART certification in plumbing but did not stop there as he subsequently sat and passed seven CSEC subjects — including English and Mathematics.
Peart is now pursuing a degree in Teacher Education specialising in mathematics at Church Teacher's College in Mandeville, Manchester and is being held up by JFLL and JaCAE as a symbol of the important difference adult learning can make in the life of an individual.
Peart’s reading impressed the congregation which included Ronald Thwaites, the education minister, who charged the service to keep adult and youth literacy at the forefront of their minds and to support the efforts of organisations such as JaCAE and JFLL.
JACAE is a voluntary nonprofit organisation whose members are involved in a wide range of adult and continuing educational activities.
After the service, attention was turned the following day to the grounds of the JFLL where an Adult Learning and Education Fair was staged, offering information from agencies such as the Ministries of Health and Labour & Social Security, the Registrar General’s Department (RGD), Jamaica Red Cross, Four-H Club, Council of Community Colleges of Jamaica, Jamaica Library Service, HEART Trust/NTA, and the Social Development Commission.
One highlight of the education fair was a special presentation by the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC) on the work of the corporation in helping individuals to set up micro businesses and to market their products.
Educator and former education minister, Burchell Whiteman took centrestage on September 26 at the first of two seminars titled “Unlocking the Potential for Progress through Lifelong Learning”. Whiteman who is the current chairman of the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), urged the country to reflect on some lessons learnt from the August 2012 celebrations marking Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of Independence.
He argued that during the period, Jamaica was able to engage the Diaspora on several levels and it was his belief that organisations such as JACAE, could look to the Diaspora as another scope/opportunity for civil society partnership.
Whiteman suggested that ambitious innovations could be sustained, one example being the success of the Jubilee Village in Independence Park. He said the experience for many Jamaicans was one of self-discovery, as they had never experienced the Jamaica Urban Transportation Company (JUTC) on which they were able to “enjoy this positive experience with the park and ride facility”.
He said Jamaica had impacted the world positively on several levels in terms of goods, services and human capital and challenged the notion of what he called an “either/or society” which resulted in a readiness among citizens to close their minds to possibilities.
Dr Gladstone Hutchinson, director general of the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) took the spotlight at the second seminar — the JFLL’s 2nd Annual Workplace Productivity Lecture Seminar under the theme “Literacy as a 2030-Strategic — Input to the Productivity Equation: Agenda for the Way Forward”.
“We need to make a serious investment in the education of our workforce,” Hutchinson appealed to “Team Jamaica”. He reminded that some 60 per cent of the workforce was untrained, negatively impacting productivity, and that there remained areas in Jamaica where “humanness is rich but the deprivation is disgraceful”.
He was followed by Dr Alison Cross, the JFLL executive director; Donald Roberts, head of the Hugh Lawson Shearer Institute; and Dr Michael Rosberg, director of the Institute for Social Entrepreneurship & Equity.
JFLL presented certificates of appreciation to many of its private sector and community partners who made the commitment to provide educational opportunities to their employees or community members, thus improving workplace productivity, individual and community lifestyles.
The well-attended JACAE fundraising week to a climax September 29 at the Knutsford Court Hotel where Education Minister Thwaites was guest speaker. Five persons were awarded for their service to JaCAE and to adult education in Jamaica: Rev Thwaites; Patricia Roberts, director general of the Jamaica Library Service and past executive member of JaCAE; Dr Beryl Allen, retired university lecturer, and past executive member of JACAE; Dr Adolph Cameron, secretary general of the JTA and past president of JaCAE. and Desmond Allen, JaCAE public relations officer and executive editor — operations at the Jamaica Observer.
Shermaine Barrett, president of JaCAE, in her remarks said education was “the most effective means that a society possesses for confronting the challenges of the future” and while it was not the whole to every problem education, “in the broadest sense it must be a vital part of all efforts to imagine a brighter future and a better nation.”
“Already, education has played a critical role in the development of our nation. And right now we can think of how an agenda for peace education is critical in our nation at this time as we battle the monster of crime and violence and in particular domestic violence,” Barrett said.
She cautioned Jamaicans against expecting “the formal education system — which in reality touches our children for only a fraction of their lives” - to teach them everything about living, working and governing in a manner that will achieve sustainability for our communities and our nation”.
“As Jamaica celebrates its 50th year as an independent nation it is opportune for us to look at how adult education has contributed to the advancement of our society from a slave/colonial society to an independent nation. However, it is even more critical for us to ponder how as a nation we can facilitate the development of our people to leverage opportunities for personal and national development through continued learning,” said Barrett.
Master of Ceremonies was Kay Anderson, past president of JaCAE