ST ANN'S BAY, St Ann — Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has challenged the rebranded Marcus Garvey Technical High School in St Ann to become a school of excellence in order to do justice to the national hero after whom it was named, Marcus Garvey.
Thwaites was addressing Friday's launch of the teaching of Garveyism in the new civics programme to be rolled out in all public schools next month, and the official rebranding of the once-troubled institution.
"Marcus Garvey High, first of all, must become a school of excellence, otherwise we will do no justice to the name of Marcus Garvey," Thwaites said.
"Students of Marcus Garvey, it doesn't matter where you are now, what matters is where you are going to be next year this time. I don't know what your results were like in the CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Examination Certificate) examinations, but I have to tell you that you must listen to the words, the early recordings of the language of Marcus Garvey," Thwaites said as he emphasised the importance of English.
He said he was pleased that the administration of the school, which was labelled a failing school by former Education Minister Andrew Holness, has started to implement measures which he hopes will address some of the challenges facing the institution.
"I'm very pleased, Mr Riley (principal) and the community of Marcus Garvey High School, that this year the Ministry of Education has heard your cry and that you will be moving, taking the first resolute step to come off the shift system which has cramped the level of education that you've had for so long."
Principal Leslie Riley said that, in addition to ending the shift system, the plan to sanitise and overhaul the school's image will be boosted starting in September. In addition to removing the shift system and operating a senior campus at the plant in St. Ann's Bay and its junior campus at Mansfield in Ocho Rios, Riley said the school would no longer accept grade nine students placed there through the Grade Nine Achievement Test (GNAT).
He explained that students' career path will now begin at grade nine; that the technical mandate of the institution will be accentuated; and that there will be smaller classes and more individual attention paid to students.
"Students will be identified by their technical and vocational areas and the elimination of the shift system will allow for more instruction, students will definitely be given more teaching time, especially in mathematics and English," Riley explained.
Added Riley: "A significant aspect of the rebranding of the school is the renaming of the school's library as The Marcus Garvey Resource Centre, with increased access to better research materials for both students and members of staff, and with a decided slant to the philosophy and teachings of Marcus Garvey."
Riley said as the nation celebrated the 125th anniversary of Garvey's birth, the occasion has offered a golden opportunity for the school to reinvent itself by internal structural renewal and cultural adjustments.
Meanwhile, Thwaites said the new civics programme will be mandatory for Jamaican students from the pre-primary to secondary level. He said the necessary teachers' manuals and kits are ready for distribution.
"I don't know what would have got into our minds to take civics out of the curriculum of our schools, [but] never mind that anymore. Starting on September 3, [it will be offered] not as an optional extra, but as a mandatory part of the curriculum of every grade in every school in Jamaica," he said.
He said the objective of the education system should not only be to develop students to get eight or nine subjects in CSEC, but to develop students who are conscious of themselves and who know their self-worth and their dignity and understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens of the country.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in a video message, commended the Education Ministry for including the teachings of Garveyism as a part of the new civics programme in the schools.
"Reintroducing civics in schools is a critical step at this stage when the progress of national identity and how we can structure our society to move Jamaica forward is on the national agenda.
"Let us expose our children to Garvey's liberation philosophy that could help them discover the greatness within that must empower them to transform the nation," she said.
Members of the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) have also expressed their pleasure that after many years of lobbying, the teachings of Garveyism will finally be taught in the schools.
Senior member of the UNIA, Ras Clover, told the Jamaica Observer that especially for the Rastafarian community the decision was a welcome one.
"It is something that we have worked and advocated for, so it is just a matter of us reaching our goals," he said, adding that there are several aspects of Garvey's teachings, including self-reliance and equality, that needs to be accomplished.