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Davies offers bold suggestion to education ministry

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, May 16, 2014    

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Dr Omar Davies has made a bold suggestion that the education ministry utilise the "organisational reach" of the political parties' in various communities to maximise returns from its educational investments.

"The major point which I wish to make in this regard, is to appeal to the minister and the officials of the Ministry of Education to utilise a resource which, because of long-established prejudices, has remained unemployed or under-employed. That resource is the organisational reach of the political parties," Davies, the transport and works minister, said Wednesday.

"I fully appreciate the concerns about political interference in appointments, etcetera. What I am speaking about is using the organisational reach of the political parties to assist in disseminating information about educational opportunities, as well as in monitoring the performance of the initiatives in the various communities," he explained.

Davies, who was speaking in the sectoral debate in the House of Representatives, said that he has employed this tactic in promoting his BASICS Initiative/Child Find programme in his South St Andrew constituency with great success.

He stated that neither the Programme for Advancement Thorugh Health and Education (PATH), nor the Ministry of Education, itself, has a similar reach.

"Every single MP can indicate which principals demonstrate drive and initiative, and which (ones) expect that all problems will be resolved by the ministry from headquarters," he stated.

"I accept that it is a delicate balance between the constructive involvement of the political directorate and the abuse of this opportunity for narrow political ends. Nonetheless, it would be a major blunder were we to miss the opportunity of increasing the number of persons within communities and constituencies who can assist with maximising the returns to education, given the limited resources available," he concluded.

Davies said that the input of his political organisations has benefited programmes in his constituency such as the BASICS Initiative, the final element in the set of educational initiatives in South St Andrew.

He said that the programme, which is partly financed by the CHASE Fund, links the 28 early childhood institutions serving students in the communities. The objective is to spread best practices amongst all institutions, simultaneously bringing about improvements in physical facilities, as well as seeking to raise the capabilities of staff and the nutrition of students.

He said that the positive spin-offs, some of which were not even anticipated when the initiative started, included the "Child Find" programme, which utilises the political organisations to identify youngsters who should be enrolled in an early childhood institution, but who are not because their parents cannot afford either the fees or the lunch money.

"Once the students are identified, an enlightened businessman, who seeks no publicity, provides funding to ensure that the fees for these youngsters are paid; that they are provided with appropriate uniforms, shoes and an allowance for food," he said.

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