Orlando Patterson says education key to reducing violence
Professor Orlando Patterson makes a point during Friday's Rex Nettleford Distinguished Lecture at The University of the West Indies, Mona. (Photo: Karl Mclarty)

CHAIRMAN of the Jamaica Education Transformation Commission (JETC) Professor Orlando Patterson says the violence plaguing the country has to be addressed through education.

"Our biggest problem is the problem of violence, not just in terms of killings but also in terms of relationships," Patterson told guests attending Friday night's inaugural Rex Nettleford Distinguished Lecture at the Council Room, Regional Headquarters Building, The University of the West Indies, Mona.

"It is pretty disturbing that we have not only the highest rates of violence detected in the homicide rates but we [also] have the highest rate of genocide in the world," he noted, referring to the topic he had just presented to the audience under the theme: 'The past has not passed: The Heritage of slavery and genocide in Jamaica', which formed part of the celebration marking what would have been Nettleford's 90th birthday.

He said that the country's education system has not served Jamaica as well as it should, but that "the sad thing about it is not that the leaders have not paid attention to education. As I emphasised in my report, if you look at the percentage of GDP, or the percentage of the national budget spend on education, Jamaica is among the top 20 of countries".

The Jamaica Education Transformation Commission Report was presented to the Government in late 2021.

Professor Patterson noted that the coordination between the different (political) parties has been stronger in Jamaica than almost anywhere else in the Americas, yet there is a situation in which, as soon as one Government of Jamaica comes in, it scraps every plan of the previous Government for education and "starts it all over again". However, he stated that the country still has "remarkable continuity" in terms of the commitment of its leaders to education, and so the question is, why has it not worked?

He said that he is not finished yet in terms of the task before him and the commission, which is currently at Phase 2 of its tasks in looking at technical and vocational training as a basic ingredient for the success of the system.

"I want to give you a little advice that one of the most radical programmes we had is the need to move towards a more Danish, German, New Zealand model in respect of where vocational training education becomes a more integral part of the broader education system," he said.

"I spent almost two years of my life with some very smart people from this institution [The UWI] and from outside as stakeholders who worked hard; and we produced a report of over 350 pages and we are waiting to see what happens," he stated.

He said that education is involved in terms of, not only forming the structures for the ministry but also what is taught and how it is taught, pointing out that it involves making an important part of the curriculum not just the return to re-emphasising history again but, more importantly, to emphasise social and emotional learning as an important component.

"It is not happening in the family [so] it has to happen somewhere else. There are many other ways in which we can go but we see education as key to solving, not just economic problems, since the evidence is now overwhelming that the path to development goes through having a good education, an efficient educational system, and [it is] also a path to reducing violence, which goes through how we teach our people," he added.

In the meantime, former Prime Minister P J Patterson said when Professor Nettleford died in 2010 his passing left an immense void, not only in Jamaica but also the wider Caribbean and beyond.

"Rex impressed everyone as a man of balance. He numbered political friends on both sides of Gordon House and, in the wider scope of the Caribbean, many political leaders benefited from his tutelage and influence at The UWI," said the former prime minister.

He said that central to the mission of the Rex Nettleford Foundation is support for scholars, and programmes that promote the strengthening of the West Indian society in the areas of social and cultural development.

The foundation will stage the annual 'Remember Rex' performance by the National Dance Theatre Company this Wednesday.

Balford Henry

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