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Stabroek News

Dr. Davidson Daway - an economist at school
published: Sunday | March 20, 2005


- Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer.
Dr. Davidson Daway, retired UN economist and university lecturer is spending retirement teaching small children.

Avia Ustanny, Outlook Writer

"BEFORE YOU solve that problem, tell me what operation you used. Stand and speak to me."

The order, uttered in a gentle yet commanding voice is that of Dr. Davidson Daway who is holding court in a classroom of 26 boys and girls. The students are of varying ages, but most have one thing in common: They were two weeks away from their GSAT examination, held last week Thursday and Friday.

When Outlook visited this private class in Hughendon, the fundamentals in English and mathematics were still being taught to the primary preparatory school students.

Dr. Daway Davidson, the tutor, possesses a Ph.D. in economics and, if you were to go back in time five years, you would have found him in a senior position in the department of economics at the United Nations.

Today, the economist works in the quiet community of Hughenden in Kingston in the rather humble surrounds of the community centre. You may be justified in really wondering what he was doing there, among those least likely to be impressed by his credentials.

PERSUING LIFELONG DREAM

The short answer is that, Dr. Daway, who is married to a Jamaican, is pursuing a lifelong dream of contributing to Caribbean development in a tangible and very personal way.

Thirty years ago, when he, as a young scholar walked through the doors of Catholic University in Puerto Rico, his desire was to work with the World Bank as a means of contributing to the development of his native Dominica and other Caribbean islands.

Today, he has found a new interpretation for his dream.

Nurse Annette Maragh, the mother of 11-year-old student Brittany, sent her daughter to sit in extra classes with Dr. Davidson Daway in November of 2004.

In her words, the transformation verges on the incredible.

She recalls: "There were a lot of things that she (Brittany) had not seemed to be grasping, notwithstanding the fact that she was going to school regularly and doing extra lessons. I myself am not a trained teacher and so I decided to get help."

On the recommendation of another parent, she sent Brittany to Dr. Daway.

Today she says, "She has come quite a far way. I am happy with improvements. She is much more confident and the areas that I thought needed shoring up have actually been done."

While Dr. Daway teaches in his evening school, not too far way from his mind his own history.

Ran away

Davidson was one of 11 children born to his mother ­ his father had a total of of 13 children and Davidson was the only one with his mother ­ and admits frankly that he ran away from home to sit the examination for St. Mary's Catholic School in Dominica. He did it he said, because his mother, a fish monger, had life very hard indeed. At a very early age, he realised that it was either "education or bust."

He was only eight years old when he took the test. His parents first knew about his venture when his name appeared in the newspapers. His father, an electrician, decided to pay his fees and so he attended St. Mary's until graduation at age 14. Davidson, then, was way too young to work and too old for further studies at high school. He persuaded a government official in the Dominican Ministry of Agriculture to allow him to work in his office and pay him out of his own pocket. To the 14 year old boy, it felt good to be going around to the unions and checking the books. But, that feeling was short-lived.

A genius

Before he was 15, Davidson took a boat to St. Croix in the Virgin Islands where his brother lived. There, he had the encounter which was to change the course of his life. Some friends of his brother who thought that he was a genius, invited him to Puerto Rico for the Christmas holidays. There, they introduced him to the president of the Catholic University who told him that he would be welcome to attend classes. The president thought that he was exceptional.

In Puerto Rico, he was the first non-American student of the university to win an American scholarship, having made the Dean's list with a perfect 4.0 score from his very first semester.

In 1978, Davidson Daway graduated with high honours and with a bachelor's degree featuring a double major in marketing and economics. He also secured financing to do his masters in economics at New York University in the United States. Davidson also started teaching, first at St. Peters School in Yonkers and then at Aquinas High School in the Bronx. He loved it.

He was fortunate, he said, to receive mentoring during that period from Dan Qarts of ABC Network, who also encouraged him to do his Ph.D. at NYU. This was pursued in collaboration with the University of Lagos in Nigeria . He also spent two semesters at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel and one semester at the University of Dublin in Ireland.

On returning to the United States, Dr. Davidson worked for less than a year as an analyst at Meryll Lynch before he was called back to New York University to teach. His research includes his dissertation which focused on Third World budgeting practices and ( along with Dr. George Irish of Medgar Evers College) 'Establishing New Lives', a paper on Caribbean migrants and their economic and social impact.

Desire to impact

Never too far away from his mind was the desire to impact Caribbean development by working for the World Bank, and so, when in 1990 he was invited to join the United Nations Department of economics, he jumped at the opportunity as one which was one step further towards his goal. He worked with the United Nations for 20 years before resigning and making tracks for the Caribbean.

The 45-year-old man says: "I had always planned that I would never get to the age of retirement (65) in the United States. I really wanted to be still strong and healthy to do something to affect the Caribbean region."

He came to Jamaica (which he had visited many times) he said, firstly because his wife is from this island, but also because he figured that this was one of the best places to engineer a larger impact on the Caribbean. The population of Dominica (80,000) is way to small, he said.

Still, his plans to work as a consultant have been cast away in the surge of parents seeking help for their students. It started with a friend of his wife who complained about how inadequately her son was performing in school. Starting with this male student, Dr. Daway discovered that he still had the formula for reaching young minds. The student, Miguel Spence won a scholarship in 1999, and Dr. Daway's extra lessons in Hughenden ballooned into a community institution.

Both daughters of bank supervisor Nicola O' Sullivan have passed through the economist's hands. Daughter Nikhan, now 13, is said by her mother to have been a mediocre student before Dr. Daway got her in class.

"Her confidence level was low," her mother says, recalling that she was getting no more than 70s in class.

He made it easier

"I heard about him (Dr. Daway) from another parent at school, so I called him, explained to him my problem, being a single mother and he said, 'don't worry, bring her to me'." Her daughter's response after the first day of extra classes was "Mummy the teachers at school make work easy but Dr. Daway has made it even easier."

According to the mother, "from day one, Nikhan was a different child. She started getting 80s straight up to 90's. I think he (Dr. Daway) has given her focus. The students are encouraged to write their goals on the wall and she put 'Dr. Nikhan, Immaculate Conception High'. She just moved from strength to strength. She was just victorious. She is now going to Immaculate."

Eleven-year-old Khristen, her other daughter, is also doing well under Dr. Daway's tutelage.

According to the economist and teacher, he has noticed that a lot of GSAT-age children are lacking in foundation knowledge. Even CXC students, he said, have the same problem with foundation, as more emphasis is placed on preparing them for examinations than for giving them the basics which they need.

"What needs to be done is to develop a programme at the lower grades that will enable students to master the foundation."

One of the ills of the sixth grade, he said, is that there is too much homework, also. "We need to limit this. The minds of the children need to be satisfied and for them, less is more. "

Teachers and parents alike, he also noted, may be lacking in the patience that they need to achieve the results expected in students.

Beyond GSAT

The lessons taught by the economist extend beyond GSAT, as he also strives to develop their social skills.

Fellow evening-school teacher and tutor at Lista Mair, Mrs. Pauline Duncan, told Outlook that Dr. Davidson Daway "is very good. He sets standards, criteria and works at them, not being too strict, not forceful but getting across the lessons to his students on a one-to-one basis so that they can relate to him and give him good feed back.

"He sets his standards very high. He is a role model."

Eleven-year-old Khristen would agree. On her wall, she has written 'Dr. Khristen'. "She wants a Ph.D. in education," her mother notes. " "She wants to teach younger children. I think she got it from Dr. Daway."

According to Annette Maragh, mother of Brittany: "The motivational part (from Dr. Daway) has been tremendous. The vibrancy, the transfer of knowledge was really astounding. The classes are quarter past five in the evening to quarter to seven and at that time of the day, every child is perky and ready to learn. It is amazing. I think it is the amount of energy, the humour, the wit. He is a teacher who never sits."

Dr. Daway is now tutoring over 70 students. Last year there were more.

The economist is married to Faith who is a teacher of music. They are parents to two daughters, 23-year-old Aiyisha and six-year-old Gabriel.

"Education means the world to me," the father ands teacher told Outlook "I see this (his work with children) as an opportunity to prove myself not only as a Christian, but as a human being."

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