THE EDITOR, Sir:
During our 50th anniversary celebrations, I was struck by how many of our leaders seemed to blame the British for Jamaica's failings. Jamaica had a strong foundation in 1962 on which to build a prosperous nation, unlike many countries which have left us pointing fingers from the dust.
Every one of Jamaica's top-tier high schools was built pre-Independence, and none equivalent has been built since. Maybe the Government was well intentioned when it took over these prominent establishments, which were mostly run by the churches, but instead of building on the strengths of these world-class institutions, 50 years later, not one is at the academic level it was in 1962!
Our business, government, art and culture communities are filled with pre-Independence graduates of these schools. I would dare say the two generations since 1962 have not produced great Jamaicans like Norman Manley (Jamaica College, 1910), Professor Louis Grant (Jamaica College, 1925), Wilmot Perkins (Calabar 1944), Herb McKenley (Calabar,1937 ) Professor Rex Nettleford (Cornwall College 1953), Louise Bennett-Coverley, (St Simon's College, 1932), Noel Nethersole (Jamaica College, 1920), Sir Hector Wynter (Wolmer's, 1945), Sir Florizel Glasspole (Wolmer's 1922), and Gerald Lalor (Kingston College, 1942).
There are thousands of men and women, too many to mention here, who excelled despite colonisation and whose contributions made early independent Jamaica a triumphant success.
P.J. Patterson (Calabar, 1947) speaks about black people unable to get bank jobs before Independence, but he, who did a good deal better, does not share his impressive story. Born poor and black, educated at one of Jamaica's most reputable high schools, graduated with honours from University of the West Indies, then attended the London School of Economics, all during colonial rule.
His story is almost identical to others who made up his, and Jamaica's, longest-serving government. Men and women from humble beginnings, who studied hard and attended top-tier Jamaican schools, then studied abroad at the most highly selective universities in United States and Britain, finally returning home with prestigious degrees, all before Jamaica's Independence in 1962.
How different the child born poor today? What chance does he or she have of attending The London School of Economics, Harvard, or Oxford? For that matter, what chance does he or she have of attending Immaculate, Campion or Ardenne? There is a better chance of becoming a drug dealer.
The history of hard-working Jamaicans is long and inspiring, but during Jamaica 50, we heard mostly of those who were poorly treated and underachieved under colonial rule. Are our successive governments, who reap the benefits of an uneducated electorate, trying to deflect the blame that should fall squarely at their feet?
In 1970, after a decade of economic growth averaging 5.2 per cent per annum, the United Nations Development Programme estimated that based on its Human Development Indicators (combining per capita income, life expectancy and educational attainment) calculated for 79 industrial and developing countries, Jamaica ranked first among developing countries.
Mr Patterson said that Jamaica in 2012 should "take pride that more people have running water than before Independence", while more than 200 of our schools use pit toilets and are debating whether to use Patois because our children no longer understand the English language.
Imagine the hopes and dreams of the proud Jamaican people on Independence Day 1962, who witnessed the first raising of the black, green and gold? Imagine the pride of Sir Alexander Bustamante and Norman Washington Manley who worked together to see this day they dreamed of as youths finally arrive. Both men died peacefully knowing they had left their beloved Jamaica far better than how they found it.
They cry from their graves when you call their names from your pulpits; they had nothing to do with what you have become. You have squandered their accomplishments and undermined their struggles. You have put self before party, and party before country. Our national heroes brokenheartedly would never recognise the shattered remains of this, Jamaica, land we love.