Classroom clash - Educators battle for Manchester South
When electors go to the polls in Manchester South on Thursday, they will be selecting one of two principals to serve as their next member of parliament.
For the first time in 23 years, Michael Peart will not be on the People's National Party's (PNP's) ticket in the constituency. Instead, it will be Michael Stewart representing the Comrades, and another newcomer, Hidran McKulsky representing the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP).
McKulsky is the holder of a bachelor's degree in secondary education and a master's degree in educational administration.
He lectured at the Northern Caribbean University for approximately seven years, served as principal of the BB Coke High School (St Elizabeth), and managed two Heart Trust Training institutions before moving to Penwood High School in St Andrew, where he now serves as a vice-principal.
McKulsky's political work started while he was at university when he helped to start a Generation 2000 chapter. But even then, representational politics was the furthest thing from his mind.
"My job prior to this would not have allowed me to take up this political post, and so, in the interest of the people of Manchester South, I decided to resign. I set up a foundation that would have seen me providing assistance regarding housing, food, and other items in the central region of the island prior to politics."
According to McKulsky, having seen the needs of the people of Manchester South, he decided that he could adequately serve the people by being part of the Legislature.
"I had no intention of taking on a tough constituency. I thought I would have been ushered into a safe seat, but because of my interaction with the constituents there, I saw first-hand the needs."
Originally from St Catherine, the aspiring member of parliament has lived in Mandeville for the past 17 years and claims that he has earned the trust of the people, enough to take over the seat that the PNP has held for approximately 25 years.
"I have been on the ground 18 months, and I can tell you, I have not had a negative experience in meeting the residents," said McKulsky, who is campaigning on the theme 'Hope for South Manchester'.
"The constituency is lacking in infrastructure. It is behind civilisation. We don't have running water in a significant part of the constituency, and the road is atrocious. ICT infrastructure is not readily available to develop the minds; unemployment levels are high; and the ambitions of the people are dying," added McKulsky.
Unlike McKulsky, who applied to represent the JLP in the constituency, Stewart was hand-picked by the PNP to be its representative.
Stewart holds a diploma in teacher education, a diploma in administration, an honours degree in educational administration, and a master's degree.
He has served the teaching profession for more than 35 years, working as a teacher before landing the job as principal at the Rose Hall All-Age School and then Porus High.
Stewart also served as president of the Jamaica Teachers' Association.
DRAWN TO POLITICS
Having worked as a member of the constituency executive committee at the time of Douglas Manley, who won the seat in 1989, Stewart was naturally drawn into politics.
"I thought about it long and hard after several persons encouraged me to enter representational politics, so I consulted with my family. I became constituency chairman in 2014, and now, here I am," Stewart told The Sunday Gleaner as he admitted that he had big boots to fill in replacing Peart.
"Michael is a man of high integrity, a person who believes in education and upliftment. I have been working with him and we get along extremely well. He's a friend, a brother, and a mentor, and I will indeed be looking at all the things I can do for the constituency," said Stewart.
"Michael has done a considerable amount of work in farming, education, and development, but there is always room for improvement. We will be looking at irrigation systems for the farmers, building a packing house to boost employment, replicating agroparks throughout the constituency, resuscitating associations, restoring wells, improving school infrastructure, and establishing a principals' association," added Stewart as he expressed confidence in a victory.
MANCHESTER SOUTHERN: 1980 - 2011
1980 A.S. Sinclair (PNP) 6,887
A.H. Williams (JLP) 7,352
Margin of victory 465
1983 PNP BOYCOTT
1989 Douglas Manley PNP) 8,615
Lloyd Bent (JLP) 5,604
Margin of victory 3,011
1993 Michael Peart PNP) 6,057
Lloyd Bent (JLP) 4,702
Margin of victory 1,355
1997 Michael Peart PNP) 8,030
Arthur Williams (JLP)) 4,966
Margin of victory 3,064
2002 Michael Peart (PNP) 8,088
Noel Stephenson (JLP)) 5,656
Margin of victory 2,432
2007 Michael Peart (PNP) 8,290
Richard Hector (JLP) 7,455
Margin of victory 835
2011 Michael Peart (PNP) 9,563
Collin Virgo (JLP) 7,036
Margin of victory 2,527