Sun | Mar 29, 2020

Mark Wignall | Revolutionary approaches to education

Published:Sunday | September 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM

"I think I may have wasted my time in talking to him," the Jamaican professor wrote in his email to me. Later that same day as we spoke, he joked, "And I even wore a jacket and tie that day."

My friend, the professor, once lectured in the maths department at the UWI, Mona, campus where he secured the highest marks among his students but earned the jealousy of shallow-minded staffers there. Currently, he teaches actuarial science at an American university where he operates with a PhD in financial mathematics.

As he tells it, he approached Andrew Holness when Bruce Golding was prime minister and Holness was the minister of education. "He was most impressed with my proposal and I left the meeting with high hopes that he would be the one to institute it."

According to him, Jamaica is not fully exploiting the digital space in teaching. "The subjects we need to be teaching if we want to take this country into the modern age are the science subjects and maths but, those are the subjects that are presenting us with the greatest problems.

"The reality is, those teachers who are really good at these STEM subjects either teach them privately or they are drawn to and employed by the tech industry abroad."

The professor tells me of local teachers of maths who earn up to J$6 million per annum, in addition to the pittance from teaching. "After a while, they exit public-school teaching and do it full time at home. I know one now who tells me he earned $10 million last year simply because he gets results and the parents know of his quality teaching."

The proposal he had taken to then education minister was as follows: "Identify 10 of the best teachers in, say, maths, physics, chemistry, etc., and video the entire course in modules. These will then be posted to the Internet and will be available to students and even the weaker teachers.

"Think about it, Mark. If you pay these teachers, say, J$4 million for the year, that will be just a relatively small $40 million, and, think of the way it could revolutionise the teaching of those problematic subjects. It would even be available to prisoners who want to really turn around their lives once they gain their freedom."

My professor friend points out to me that many teachers of maths in this country are hardly better than the students they are struggling to teach. "They plainly do not know the subject and are destined to fail, both themselves and the students. The really good teachers are in the minority and they are drawn to the best schools, leaving a pool of teachers fooling themselves that they know anything about teaching."


Why move Constant Spring Market?


There has been much controversy brewing over the planned removal of the Constant Spring Market and the displacement of the few vendors still occupying the once-famous market.

The official reason given is that the market's removal is needed to facilitate the widening of the roadway. Is that really so?

Maybe the answer is to be found in what's happening on the other side of the road directly across from the market. From the corner of Olivier Road, going north, there is an excavated section of the road that stretches up to Discount Centre and Pharmacy. And the excavation suddenly stops there. From the corner of Olivier Road to where the excavation stops is about 40 or 50 metres, and the width where it conveniently stops is 28 ft or 8.5 metres.

I measured the width last Wednesday at 6:15 in the morning.

Across the road is the market. Men in the area have shown me a red-paint mark which they say was put there by the Chinese who are building the road. The mark is at the very edge of the pavement outside the market. If I am supposed to believe these men, that is the mark put there by the road builders to indicate the borders of the extent of the road-widening.

Last Thursday when I attempted to connect with my contact at China Harbour, I had little luck. The questions I needed to ask were:

In the widening of the road, was there any attempt by the GOJ to negotiate with the owners of the pharmacy complex to 'hit off' about nine metres of the physical complex?

If it was so, was it derailed because of price?

If it was not so, why is there an obvious excavation right up to the pharmacy complex that just suddenly stops?

Is it at all possible that some members of the public could believe that just because the negotiations 'across the road' fell down, pressure had to be put on the Constant Spring Market?


Is Jennifer Messado deserving of mercy?


Well-known attorney-at-law Jennifer Messado, who has been under pressure because of numerous allegations against her professional work, is 70 years old and having an especially hard time.

Based on how many of us have been following her cases before the court, we figure where the trajectory will end. The options are obvious. She will rather be exonerated or found guilty. Or she will be disbarred as a lawyer.

Lawyers are not the most well-loved people in this country, so when Messado had a quite unfortunate bodily failure in the courts recently, there were not many who were prepared to sympathise with her.

I understand them, but, personally, I prefer not to pile it on when an individual's back is against the wall. It is just not in my nature unless, of course, the person is a public official who has final responsibility to the taxpayers of this country.

We pretty much see where this is likely to end. We need not begin to build headstones long before the body is still capable of its failures and its ability to heal itself.


Why lawyers are so hated


Good lawyers tend to make a lot of money and, in a country filled with more than its fair share of poor people, there is a lot of hate to go around from the poor to the rich.

Added to that are the unpublished stories of lawyers who commit sins that the general public is unaware of.

Many people have sent me stories with documentary evidence stating the horrendous wrongs that lawyers have done to them. Many editors are not too disposed to publish them. It is not that the stories are not sound, only that often too much time is expended in legal fees and reams of correspondence.

One individual told me that "you are my last chance" after showing me stark evidence staring me in the face against a well-known lawyer with political connections. After we had many conversations, he turned against me and told me, "You are just as wicked as the lawyer who ripped me off, took away my property, and is still spitting on me."

Because of that, whenever people contact me about the ills they have suffered at the hands of lawyers, I tell them that there is no guarantee of publication, even though I will promise to pore over the documentation.

One well-known lawyer (now deceased) had options of either wilting or coming out strongly against what I had against him. The documents I had indicated that he had witnessed a signature which included a property transfer.

The big problem was, at the time he witnessed the signature, the person had been dead for four months. According to him, "I cannot say whose signature that is," even though it was signed under his company's seal and a specialist in signature analysis had given evidence that the lawyer's signature and the dead person's signature were from the same person.

Think about that.

- Mark Wignall is a political and public-affairs commentator. Email feedback to and