Sun | Nov 17, 2019

Earl Jarrett | Together we must: a clarion call to greatness

Published:Sunday | November 3, 2019 | 12:23 AM

Excerpts from an address at the recent Camperdown Alumni Gala and Awards Ceremony.

The theme ‘Together We Must’ is a clarion call to work to achieve excellence at Camperdown High. It also underscores your mission, which is to be the learning institution of choice and the ‘Diamond of the East’.

I want to remind you that your destiny, your future, is already shaped, beginning in 1930 when the school was founded by Mrs Ivy Grant. Your school was founded at a difficult time for Jamaica and the world as we were about to enter a period which is known as the Great Depression.

The economies of the world and individuals lost a significant amount of money as stock markets around the world crashed, banks failed, and many individuals took their lives as they could not see the way to a future.

Mrs Ivy Grant saw things differently. She saw education as a critical enabler to change the negative stories, and so she decided to start a preparatory school with an enrolment of six students. By 1934, the school became a secondary school for girls with approximately 300 students.

GREAT LEADERSHIP

Mrs Grant’s efforts were significant as she knew that to achieve her vision for education, she would need partners, and so she sought the partnership of the Presbyterian Church (now the United Church of Jamaica and Grand Cayman) to acquire land for the construction of the school at its present location. I am sure that each student and alumnus knows the school’s history well, but what I would like us to take away from the history is the effectiveness of great leadership.

- Great leadership that shaped a vision for the development of a ‘diamond in the east’.

- Great leadership that recognised the value of support and sought the partnership of helping hands and the Government.

- Great leadership that was persistent and focused so that, in 1958, having met all the conditions, the goal of grant-aided status for the students was achieved.

All this happened during a period of global recession. Jamaica was going through its major crises – the ruin of the banana industry; falling sugar prices; growing unemployment owing to the curtailment of migration opportunities; a steeply rising population growth rate; and low wages and the exploitation of workers, which led to the creation of the trade union movement.

And it was during this period that we saw the emergence of national leaders and educators such as St William Grant, Norman Manley, Sir Alexander Bustamante, Mr Wesley Powell of Excelsior, and your own Mrs Ivy Grant of Camperdown.

And reflecting on these persons who have helped to build the foundations of the nation we have today, it is important that we reintroduce values espoused by these unsung heroes. If we are going to transform this rock we call Jamaica, and our heritage, we must continuously celebrate Mrs Ivy Grant as one of the founding parents of Jamaica, particularly at this time as we celebrate our national heroes.

I would like for us to recognise the fact that your founder was a woman. Mrs Grant was charting new paths at a time when only a few women could rise to leadership positions in Jamaica and in the world. And, therefore, Camperdown must also remember its founder’s objective, which is to challenge the status quo – never be satisfied with what exists – and push the boundaries as Mrs Ivy Grant did to achieve her goal of an educational institution of excellence. I believe the current terminology is for disruptive solutions to be found for the problems we encounter.

It is interesting to note that in the book A Short History of Education in Jamaica by Millicent White, she outlines how secondary schools were formed.

They were established with endowments to educate the white population who lacked the financial means to obtain an education in Jamaica. Many of the ‘brand-name’ schools today were formed through endowments between 1694 and 1825.

The Negro Education Fund, which was funded by the colonial government, provided funding for elementary education and teacher training, and the churches responded by setting up high schools between 1843 and 1898.

In 1911, the colonial government commissioned a review of secondary schools in Jamaica. The Piggott Report proposed sweeping changes to the curriculum and governance of secondary education, which resulted in the Secondary Education Law of 1914. This law, along with changes to the formulae for making grants to secondary schools, resulted in a significant increase in the construction of secondary schools in the first four decades of the 20th century. And Camperdown, was one such outcome of the policy change.

Great leadership, partnership, and an enabling public policy/Government enabled the creation of Camperdown and those qualities will support the next ‘big thing’ for Camperdown.

MUTUALITY

Together, we can achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves. The JN story, of a conglomerate that grew out of small beginnings in the rural parishes of Jamaica, is an example of the outcome of working together.

The JN Group is a membership organisation owned and managed by members. There is no individual owner of JN but simply people brought together by a common set of values and a commitment to achieve the vision of the organisation. Today, the JN Group’s assets amount to approximately $213 billion.

This was achieved by doing exactly what Mrs Grant did in the creation of Camperdown, which is to ensure that there was a strong vision, good leadership, a committed team supported by good communication, and enabling public policy.

We, at JN, call our process of working together ‘mutuality’.

Dr Martin Luther King Jr, in a letter from the Birmingham jail on April 16, 1963, captured the essence of mutuality when he wrote:

“I am cognisant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

Hillary Clinton, in her presidential bid, used the slogan ‘Stronger Together’ . There is an inconvenient truth to the quotations. If we are to succeed, we must work together to improve our school and the wider Jamaica – and, indeed, the world.

We are in a time when people are focusing on the differences between each other. We are seeing new wars being started in many countries. Leaders are pushing a populist agenda. We have persons concerned about climate change and those who are not. Those differences will get us nowhere, and for Camperdown and its past students, current students, the feeder schools (primary schools in our community), it is imperative that you work together with an understanding of the mission – which is to improve the outcome for your brothers and sisters.

There is an old hymn that has the following lines: b ind us together with cords that cannot be broken…, bind us together with love.”

It is only by understanding the value of working together that we will achieve the objectives of helping young Camperdown students to fulfil their dreams of a good education. And so the clarion call of ‘Together We Must’ continues today.

- Earl Jarrett, OJ, CD, JP, is the chief executive officer of the Jamaica National Group Limited. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.