Damion Crawford, Guest Columnist
Over the past few days, there has been a considerable amount of conversation about East Rural St Andrew, but in particular how the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) has been allocated and the supposed disagreement that disbursement has caused.
First, I would like to put an end to the argument that the constituents, or the Comrades, are in disagreement. A few naysayers is not the equivalent of a constituency, or the full political party support. Indeed, this generalisation is no different from the unfortunate statement made by Robert Mugabe that all Jamaican men are supposedly drunken drug addicts.
It must also be made clear that I in no way believe that education is the only problem the constituency faces. After all, we are also the most susceptible to natural disasters, are among those with the most extensive infrastructural needs, high unemployment and more than 10,000 persons listed on PATH.
The final clarification that needs to be made is regarding the claim that I am simply spending on education. This is, in fact, a half-truth, as the focus of the CDF is not just education but, indeed, an education plan titled Project 3-2-1. Spending is not being done in any ad hoc, non-strategic manner, but follows a plan with desired outcomes. It is this plan that I hope to take the next few paragraphs to outline for the purposes of the public.
The 3-2-1 programme outlines the strategy currently being employed by the political directorate of East Rural St Andrew to improve the living standards of the citizens of the constituency through education.
The 3-2-1 programme seeks to achieve the measurable results of having three Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) subjects per household in five years, two Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination subjects per household 10 years thereafter, and one degree per household five (5) years thereafter.
To achieve the stated objectives, the programme was designed to be very comprehensive in its focus, simultaneously concentrating on literacy, Grade Six Achievement Test performance, CSEC attainment, adult education and skills attainment and certification.
In the last Grade Four Literacy and Numeracy tests, the constituency was the second worst in Kingston and St Andrew. To improve on this, we will implement the following:
The first is the HOPE Readers Club: This will facilitate all third-graders in the constituency. The club will be held on Saturdays at 15 locations in the constituency to expose children to two hours of reading, two hours of lunch and play and two hours of spoken English.
This will be supplemented by a volunteer programme termed the Verandah Literacy Centre, where persons who are capable of reading will take on at maximum three persons to expose each to six hours of reading at their houses, be it once per week or at their convenience.
It is also our hope to construct 60 dorm spaces within the constituency to act as a three-month rotatory camp for children not reading to their grade level between grades one to nine. Children at the primary level will be taken out of school for the three months, immersed into reading, then reintroduced, while those at the secondary level will attend during the summer months.
The close working relationship with school administrations is of great importance to encourage and monitor performance at all levels.
We have already met three times with our Principals' Forum, which consists of all secondary- and primary-school principals. The forum meets with me in my capacity as member of Parliament (MP) once per month. This allows for principals to share best practices and also for immediate feedback on school needs and how the MP can assist in providing these needs through interaction with the other ministries and government agencies.
Added to this, our next step is to form the Association of East Rural Basic Schools. Similar to the Principals' Forum, all facilitators would meet with me once per month. In addition to this, all teachers at the basic-school level must attend the Teacher Improvement Summer Camp for three weeks once per year. Also, there will be a singular exam for all basic-school children each term with a centralised marking system so that the progress can be centrally monitored.
All Jamaicans have witnessed the contrasting emotions among children when GSAT results are published. It is, therefore, our aim to improve the general performance of our children in East Rural St Andrew by doing the following:
Annually hosting a fifth-graders GSAT summer camp - the first of which was already held at the University of the West Indies in July. There, we had 412 children, of which 300 were students at the end of grade five, heading into grade six. During the three weeks of the summer camp, they were given intense exposure to GSAT subjects and were also exposed to some of the best GSAT teachers. My gratitude must be expressed to the many corporate sponsors that made contributions, among which were: Stewart Motors, Wisynco, KFC, LIME, Jamaica National, and many others.
To supplement the camp, we intend to host the children from East Rural at a study camp. Students will be exposed to practice exams and study techniques for two weeks before the actual GSAT exam.
In addition, every Saturday, GSAT students will be attending classes at a central point for these extra lessons.
Finally, homework centres. It is our desire to have a homework environment facilitated at each of our 22 schools from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. If volunteers are sufficient, we would also like to extend the homework centres to the community centres as well. This will start the last week of this month from Mondays to Thursdays.
For CSEC, we will focus on five subjects: mathematics, English, principles of business, office procedures, and social studies. As noted above, it is our intention to have three CSEC subjects per household in five years by doing the following:
We hosted the first annual CSEC Mathematics Camp which was also held in July at the University of the West Indies for three weeks in the summer, dedicated to covering the syllabus. Students were exposed to the best mathematics teachers, as well as small-group tutoring in which I personally participated. Again, my gratitude must be extended to the sponsors, as well as the many volunteers that made the camp possible.
The march to achieving three CSEC subjects per household will also be aided by the homework centres highlighted above for all age groups.
We will also host monthly study marathons for mathematics, English, accounting and principles of business for all fifth-formers. These marathons will last for six hours and serve to review two modules each month for seven months.
For those who have left school, we intend to start, in the next two weeks, CSEC night schools. Each week, from Mondays to Thursdays, adults will be able to attend CSEC schools from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. each night. At these night schools, adults who are not currently attending classes will be able to sit one free CSEC subject that is rotated/changed each year. The night school is intended to also offer opportunities for HEART training and certification programmes.
For the degree level, we have attained approval for tertiary students who volunteer to help with any of the above programmes for at least 200 hours to receive 30 per cent off their university tuition fees under the JAMVAT programme.
The above programmes are expected to cost, aggregated, more than $31 million, while the total CDF is $15 million, $6 million of which has been allocated to non-education projects such as disaster mitigation, agriculture promotion, indigent housing and welfare.
We are, therefore, actively trying to raise $22 million to achieve the above-stated goals. We are also still in need of volunteers for any of the above-stated programmes.
Damion Crawford is state minister of tourism and entertainment and MP of East Rural St Andrew. Email feedback to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, or tweet him at Twitter.com/DamionCrawford.