Duncan says investment in education critical to breaking the back of crime
Keith Duncan

KINGSTON, Jamaica — President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) and co-chair of Project STAR, Keith Duncan, says Jamaica needs to invest more in early childhood and primary education to get better outcomes for its children.

“As a country, we invest a lot of money in remedial education when we are trying to recover [our children]. But where should you put the money? At the foundation,” he said, noting that this was one of the recommendations out of the Orlando Patterson Report on the reform of education in Jamaica.

Duncan made the statement while addressing the recent Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce annual dinner held at the Hotel Commingle, in Savanna-la-Mar.

“Divert some of the funding for remedial education and put it into early childhood education and primary education because we spend less money on early childhood when compared to other countries [in the Caribbean]. Instead, we spend more money on remedial and tertiary education,” the Project STAR co-chair said, pointing out that if there is a weak foundation, he believes children will lose interest in education and by age 11 to 15 years, are more likely to migrate into gangs.

“So if they get a shaky education, they are not going to want to be interested in school because they would not be understanding what the teacher is talking about and what is required of them. We have accepted the recommendation of the Educational Transformation Oversight Committee, so let us act on it. Let us get some measurable things going,” he noted.

In a release on Tuesday, Duncan said that Jamaica is now facing a surge in crime because of the failure to invest in its people and suggested that the States of Emergency (SOEs) are now necessary to save lives.

“Until you can invest in your people so that you can have different outcomes, SOEs are required and are part of the toolkit we have. But a part of that toolkit is also investing in our people. In the short term, until you can get control on crime, you have to cauterise and reduce the number of murders,” he said of the controversial SOEs.

Turning to the work of Project STAR, the co-chair noted that the project was about investing in people, whom he says are the human capital of the country.

“We need social renewal from the child through the parent to at-risk youth… we need to have social programmes with a duty of care,” he said, noting that this would need to go hand-in-hand with economic programmes.

According to Duncan, through Project STAR, young people will be trained in social and technical skills that will prepare them for the world of work. This, he said, will be done with partners such as HEART TRUST/NSTA. He said entrepreneurs in the selected communities would also be formalised.

“We are doing the economic transformation of communities and ensuring job creation. But there needs to be a mindset change so this can happen, and believe this is possible - that we can be the Singapore of the Caribbean and that we can make the changes in our country to move in the right direction,” he said.

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