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New twinning concept for 35 high schools

Observer staff reporter

Thursday, August 22, 2019

ROSE HALL, St James — Minister with responsibility for education, youth and information Karl Samuda says funding is already in place to introduce a new twinning concept in 35 of the nation's high schools this year.

“You see, one of things that we must be mindful of is that we are charged with the responsibility to engage in appropriate fiduciary strategies that are consistent with the budget, and in keeping with the objectives of the Ministry of Finance in how we plan our resources. We must be stewards, very carefully managing the funds that we have available,” the acting education minister said yesterday.

He argued that the success of twinning Ardenne and Haile Selassie high schools will hopefully provide the template for the concept to be replicated across the island.

“The Payne Avenue [located Haile Selassie High] children are going to Ardenne as a pilot programme, but it's a pilot programme that we have every intention of Parliament extending throughout the length and breadth of the country. It is not as challenging as you might think. Why? Because I am a political representative, I have been there for 40 years — I have represented both sides.

“I have children from very humble communities who are going to Immaculate [Conception High School], and Campion [College], Wolmer's [Trust Group of Schools], particularly Calabar — all of those [are] traditional high schools,” Samuda said. “They were brought up with the children from other schools that are challenged, from other communities. Many of them are from the same communities, but some have gone to the more developed schools and others have not.

“So it is not a social stigma that is going to attend to the children coming from Haile Selassie to Ardenne, it is not a cultural breach,” Samuda told delegates on the final day of the three-day Jamaica Teachers' Association 55th Annual General Conference at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa in St James yesterday.

The conference was held under the theme: 'Empowering Educators: Retooling, Innovating & Networking for Sustainable Development'.

Samuda expressed optimism that the pilot programme will serve to be mutually beneficial to the two participating schools.

“I am anticipating that the fit is going to be very smooth, but what it will do for the students coming from Haile Selassie to Ardenne is that we are going to have a transfer of those aspects of Ardenne that will redound to the benefit of the children from Haile Selassie. And then you have the extension to that, where those students, we expect, will adopt a different approach, apply themselves in a different way, be exposed to a level of training in a different style, and be able to carry the influence of that experience back to Haile Selassie,” Samuda reasoned.

He emphasised that several benefits will accrue from these exchanges between highly developed schools and the lesser developed schools.

“So they will benefit both ways, that's why I use the term cross fertilisation. I am excited about it because I think it has a great potential,” the acting education minister said.

He noted that, already, he has met with 35 principals “to introduce the concept and seek to get a buy-in, and I must say to you the results are very encouraging”.

“There was not one dissenting voice, but there was a voice of caution that said, 'Make sure that you prepare yourselves well when you start, so you don't have any unnecessary setbacks',” he revealed.

In the meantime, Samuda has called on newly installed JTA President Owen Speid to have dialogue on the school twinning concept.

“We need to discuss, we need to explore; we need to get the buy-in of everybody as we go forward together,” he pleaded.

While taking questions from the audience, educator Keisha Hayle suggested that an “extension” of Campion College be built to accommodate students from lesser developed schools.

“I am thinking that if we want to change the mindset of schools like Haile Selassie [and its] students, to the mindset of those you are sending to Ardenne, Mr Minister, it's easy. Let's build a Campion extension — build a school called Campion Extension and then some of these students will say, 'Oh, I am going to Campion'... They will think that way and we give that school the same resources we give Campion,” Hayle said.

Samuda noted that it was a good idea.

“The suggestion of having an extension of Campion for the purpose of giving them more prestige is not altogether to be dismissed. Think about it, because what we need to do is to work on the minds of our students, eliminate the feel of inequality,” the education minister said.