End educational apartheid, says BuntingSunday, July 08, 2018
BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
ROXBOROUGH, Manchester — Improving on the inequalities in the public education system with urgency is a significant way to achieve needed social and economic reform in Jamaica, says Manchester Central Member of Parliament Peter Bunting.
Speaking at the annual July 4 commemoration of the birth of founding president of the People's National Party, Norman Washington Manley, at his birthplace at Roxborough in his constituency, Bunting likened the current system to one of apartheid.
Emphasising his point, Bunting noted an example of the challenges a constituent, who is a single mother, faces to send her children daily to an “underperforming” high school almost outside of the parish, though passing eight high schools in the constituency to get to their destination.
“We are not reforming Jamaica's social and economic system by consigning those children, who are already struggling at the level of grade six, to a system which will almost ensure that they will be consigned to the backwaters of our economy. Manley's charge is that the mission of our generation is the social and economic reform of Jamaica. The apartheid education system is perhaps the most urgent area of need in that regard,” Bunting said.
Opposition Leader Dr Peter Phillips, who was guest speaker at the event, described the situation as “more than a tragedy.
“The truth is, as has been said, that while [a] start was made (for better educational opportunities) there is still much progress to be made in ensuring that the two-tiered educational system, what properly has been described as educational apartheid, that still persists needs to be overcome,” he said.
Phillips added: “Today we have approximately 45 so-called traditional high schools which offer world-class education. That is to say that three out of every four students on average in those so-called traditional high schools secure matriculation to a tertiary institution, as measured by the fact that the students pass five or more CSEC (Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate) subjects at a single sitting, including maths or English. In the other 119 so-called non-traditional high schools, fewer than two out of 10 students secure the same level of results. Some of those schools, including schools named for our national heroes, achieve zero per cent passes. It is not only a tragedy but it is a crime to allow our students in the 21st century to be located, the word that came to mind is condemned, to institutions where despite all the efforts of their parents and guardians and supporters, these students are not given a fair chance at achieving success because of the failings of our educational system.”
At the centre of Manley's vision for development, he said, was improving human capacities, not merely striving to achieve economic and financial prosperity.
Phillips said that the legacy of the founding father of the People's National Party includes starting community centres established under the Jamaica Welfare programme to integrate and build communities; increased enrolment in high school; the adoption of universal primary education for all children between seven and 11 years of age; the establishment of the College of Arts Science and Technology (now the University of Technology); awarding of teachers' scholarships and the opening of new training colleges including Moneague Teachers' College in St Ann; and the establishment of the first residential youth training centre for boys at Cobbla in Manchester.
He said he believes the 2,000 free high school places in particular that were given to students without the financial wherewithal when the Common Entrance Examination started, launched social transformation in an irrevocable way.
The Opposition Leader and the Manchester Central Member of Parliament lauded Norman Manley's leadership as a factor in how he was able to execute his vision.
Bunting said that Manley is known for his service, integrity, selflessness, stance on principle rather than expediency, and that his giving up a successful career as a lawyer so he could serve, demonstrated his commitment.
“He died a man of very modest assets as a result. We perhaps would contrast that today, where politics is seen by many as an opportunity to enrich friends, family and political cronies,” he said.
According to Bunting, Manley's interactions in international relations were also based on shared values and interest rather than on the rituals of domination and submission.
“Today, we see the rise of the strong man in politics, the authoritarian, regimes that oppress their citizens and the vulnerable minorities. We see the rise of vulgar populism in the USA, the UK, Italy, Austria, Hungary, the Phillipines, Russia, China and elsewhere. Some even fear that fascism may come again. Canada, Germany and a few others are making brave, principled stances and if Norman Manley were here today, leading this country, you can be sure Jamaica would be standing with them,” he said, adding that the celebration of the 4th of July should be “to draw inspiration from the likes of the great statesman to continue to reform the social and economic life of Jamaica”.
Phillips said that Manley left an example that should be emulated, and his strong belief in collective action to achieve goals can only be possible if people have faith and confidence and trust in their leaders to lead with integrity.