Will State universities 'dun' us for cash and depart for greener pastures?

Franklin Johnston

Friday, September 07, 2018

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Jamaica has four universities in some 100 degree-granting bodies, and media featured the triumphs and travails of regional-funded UWI (“UWI gone global” Gleaner , 3/9.2018) and our national Uni (“Funding UTech”, Observer, 20/8/18) — both together the Academy. UTech's degrees cost taxpayers a fraction of those offered by The UWI, but it needs cash, so Mayberry should plan an ESOP Plus issue — let's buy shares! The Academy is gung-ho on reparations, rankings, our cash and global plans. So what's up?

Universities were started by Roman Catholics; offered higher learning “the seven liberal arts: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, music theory, grammar, logic and rhetoric” to students 15 and up who would be Master of Arts in six years. A great university is intellectually elite and innovative but it should finesse tertiary education for you and me to be productive for self and nation.

The Academy must not put self first or leave chaos here to focus abroad or claim poverty and not do the job. We read the UWI banner with pride and trepidation. Pride in the vision and fear that fame may pervert mission. UWI has a unique role in global black affairs and must take ownership for an African diaspora of 300 million visible people of colour in the East and West. Africa will survive.

They do not write their own history so why bother? UWI must assess the three waves of forced African migration via the Sahel to the Levant, to Arabia and to the West, some 40 million total. HIM Haile Selassie told the League of Nations in the '40s that Ethiopia could not end slavery to Europe's timeline as it was their culture for 4,000 years. Jesus wept!

The Academy must study the history, medical, psychology, etc of all African slaveries and diaspora and lead globally. The West Indies is the crown jewel in the African diaspora for stable, new black nations as even the rich Israel nation is in dispute.

UWI must be accountable to study for all blacks outside Africa. Arab negroes are richer, American innovative, Brazilian numerous, European sophisticated — all continents but we run new black nations; unprecedented! The triumph of slavery in the west!?

The Academy has issues. It must scale-up to be profitable, quality too; yet not leave us in a quagmire of murder, poverty; holding the promise of a windfall of British cash. Why not exploit the freest, richest nation located in our backyard? I worked with an expat team on a past UWI 10-year plan; what does the new plan say on profitability, intellectual sustainability? In the beginning UWI got the brains — crème de la crème — and the black ruling class was born. The next generation grew equity as well as remedial classes in English; quality took a hit. UTech was born in the third cycle and we hoped for a culture of STEM but we got the same fear of maths and venal get a degree, a big work, live large!

So, can the Academy be profitable, intellectual and work ready? Well, our intellectual base is anaemic so UWI needs red meat; we hate numerate fields so UTech goes uphill and our economy is flaccid so both need a new gig as financial viability and intellectual prowess are crucial. The Academy needs a market of say 15 million to 20 million, creative product design and a good value proposition going forward. A glut of degrees, some professions; shortage of vocational, life skills is patent and many suffer by their own poor choices. In the noughties Indian graduates had to work on farms or as bus drivers. Could it happen here?

Once we fix early childhood and primary, secondary and tertiary will be a cinch; conflict of humanities, sciences, or vocations will erode. STEM is the area of most creativity in the 21st century yet we fear and avoid it to be in the “creative industry”. Leonardo da Vinci designed irrigation, security systems for the Medici and painted the Mona Lisa so the Academy must deliver intellectual, artistic, productive people!

The essence of higher VS tertiary education is not teaching and learning but R & D, innovation, designs, patents. The Academy needs cash and a global footprint but what is its pledge to our 2.8 million, the West Indies' five million or the Caribbean's 60 million? What achievement does it have to take global?

The Academy must man-up as follows: #We do not feel you in our war on crime or in production, productivity of factory or farm — why? #The West Indies is the acme of the African diaspora and UWI must take point on global African slaveries, diasporas; alleged medical, psychological, emotional, cognitive inheritance or genetic change of western blacks by “400 years of slavery” (life expectancy was 45) and give us results #Why are all black nations poor when many have arable land, minerals and oil? Finally, how did whites lift South Africa to first-world status; military, industrial, nuclear, farming, African culture, fine arts and the first heart transplant ever?

For-profit degree factories thrive at no cost to taxpayers, but we spend $12 billion plus on UTech, UWI and we need research, innovation and answers from them. A captive market of a 300 million well-off African diaspora plus Africa is not to be ignored but a rash cash-call or mission-creep to foreign while our nation bleeds is unacceptable! Stay conscious!


— Franklin Johnston, D Phil (Oxon) is a strategist and project manager; Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK); lectures in Logistics and Supply Chain Management at the Mona School of Business and Management at the University of the West Indies.

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