Remembering Dr Simon Clarke, a giant of education
Dr Simon Clarke, former UNESCOdirector and education advisor for the Caribbean, wearing his master of ceremonies hat.

With breaking news after breaking news daily in Jamaica — a pace unbelievable for such a small country — many important developments frequently go unnoticed or just barely manage to make the headlines.

The passing of Dr Simon Clarke on May 15, 2023, a man regarded as a towering educator and a giant in his time, made the news, but only just. We in this space would be sorely remiss if we did not take note and pay due tribute to one who has contributed so much to his chosen country.

We can begin there because, though born in Panama, Dr Clarke elected to live here and few would know that he was not of Jamaican birth because of his commitment and the energy with which he carried out his endeavours in public service.

One could say that he announced himself as the first principal of the then Green Island Secondary School in Hanover. There are those who recall that in the early 1970s, the fledgling school would give far more well-established high schools a run for their money in the annually held science exhibition at Mount Alvernia High School auditorium in Montego Bay, St James.

Dr Clarke would, in time, rise from Green Island Secondary to become chairman of the lofty National Council on Education (NCE), serving, in the words of the council, with distinction, from 2015 to 2018.

Among the ground-breaking work he did at the NCE was to lead the much-sought-after review of the outdated Education Regulations of 1980, the main policy that governs education in Jamaica.

His was the task of working through national consultations with key stakeholders and special interest groups, at a time when corporal punishment for children, amid rising indiscipline, and the need for a template for assessing the performance of teachers were urgent items on the nation's agenda.

"His tenacity, commitment to hard work and value for excellence propelled the team in ensuring that this assignment was completed and delivered to the minister of education, in a timely manner," is how the council fittingly eulogised him in a press statement.

The pioneer will also be remembered for being the first principal of Sam Sharpe Teachers' College, which serves western Jamaica from Granville, near Montego Bay.

In yet another landmark, he served as the first executive director, and later chairman, of Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC), which has been pivotal in preparing countless Jamaican voices and personalities for the modern era of radio and television.

Blessed with a voice that was easy on the ears, Dr Clarke hosted Public Eye, the radio talk show which was a staple of the 1980s, establishing himself as a dispassionate and balanced moderator. He later served as chairman of the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica which regulates content on the island's electronic media.

His service was extended to the Caribbean region when he was appointed Jamaica director and Caribbean advisor of the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

In a busy career, he found time to serve as chairman of the Administrative Commission of the International Bureau of Education and on several boards of management straddling the public and private sectors.

Jamaica is fortunate to have been adopted by Dr Simon Alanzo Clarke.

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