Ronald Thwaites | A good partnership
Last week, the Parent-Teachers Association of Jamaica College staged a fundraising event headlined by the recognition of three main players in the school's continuing efforts at improvement: Danny Williams, Ruel Reid and Ian Forbes.
Over the last 10 years, largely through the inspirational leadership of Danny Williams, there has been considerable improvement in the physical facilities and educational climate at Jamaica College.
Danny's principle of inclusion and calm but resolute insistence on accountability have been the foundation elements of a sturdy partnership drawing together alumni, parents, staff and friends of the college.
Of course, it has helped that, unlike many other schools, several of JC's old boys from the glory days of Hugo Chambers are now the wealthy business leaders who could afford to give back to their school as the Hendricksons, Gores and Matalons have done.
But the importance of the partnership goes deeper than the money contributions. It lies in the spirit of shared responsibility and the satisfaction of being part of a noble endeavour. That was the vibe which was evident and shared at last week's function.
And this is the ethos which, being duplicable, could hasten the transformation of our schools and, by extension, ought to be the model for Jamaica's political economy.
The elements are as simple as they are rare. A strong leader, whether chairman or principal and preferably both - who sets an appropriate tone for a school, or by extension, ministry or agency, and encourages, enjoins and measures performance targets.
What a contrast to the crabbit, egotistical, tribal approach to management and governance evident even in the run-up to today's local government elections.
It is only through sincere, not self-interested or 'mouth-water,' partnerships that sustainable development and wholesome social relations can be forged in Jamaica.
Jamaica College's progress has a deeper significance: that of now offering the range and quality of high-school education previously reserved for the elite of colour and class, to more and more of those who were previously excluded.
The socialist NW and Michael Manley are clapping in heaven. This is what they struggled for. For, not least of JC's accolades is that of being the only existing school which can boast a national hero among its alumni.
Improvement of infrastructure in our schools is an important objective, but the ongoing challenge for the entire educational system is the transformation of character.
Since schools by default have become the premier institutions of character formation, given the weakness of families, churches and communities, it is up to good partners like those at JC to spend more time and resources going forward on forming 'men for others', strong in civic and religious conviction and convinced of the need to form faithful and committed relationships.
Far removed from the exclusionary elitism of the past, Jamaica College can now set the example of a new elitism of virtue - to match scholastic and vocational competencies and prowess in sport.
And what a powerful model that would be for emulation. What a memorial tribute to the slain Nicholas Forbes and what a gift to a nation struggling with the mortal illness of declining social capital!
No Jamaican leader, not even Garvey, has so incarnated the yearning and struggle for freedom and equality among the people of South America and the Caribbean as Fidel Castro. Those of contrarian views, like this writer, would probably not have survived under his regime. But his commitment to effective education and health care in Cuba, as well as his support for anti-imperialism and against minority rule internationally, were measures of his greatness.
Jamaicans continue to benefit substantially from Cuban solidarity and most of our people appreciate this and will mourn his death. Recall the unprecedented roar of welcome throughout Kingston when Fidel came unannounced to Michael's funeral. It is to our national credit that while others shied away, Jamaica recognised Cuba diplomatically and has decried the unjust United States embargo every year at the United Nations as well as through local parliamentary resolution.
- Ronald Thwaites is member of parliament for Central Kingston and opposition spokesman on education and training. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.