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Social revolution - Phillips promises policies to reverse inequities

Published:Sunday | September 16, 2018 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer
Peter Phillips is congratulated by Portia Simpson-Miller after his speech during the PNP's 80th anniversary conference at the National Arena in Kingston on Sunday.

People's National Party (PNP) President Dr Peter Phillips yesterday promised that a future government formed by his party would oversee a social revolution for the education sector, to reverse the economic inequity ravaging the society that has pitted classes and groups against each other.

Phillips, addressing the public session of the party's 80th anniversary conference at the National Arena in St Andrew yesterday, pledged to pursue a slew of new policies, including the introduction of the first-in-family scholarship programme, land reform, help for contract workers, and equity in duties offered to foreign companies as against local companies.

Under his first-in-family education programme, a government of the PNP will fully fund the tertiary education programme for the first member of a family to attain university qualification and acceptance.

The promise is reminiscent of the free education policy of the 1970s Michael Manley regime, with the major difference being that one will be fully funded, instead of education being free for all at the tertiary level. According to the party leader, it would be incumbent on that beneficiary to raise the quality of life for that family.

"Our commitment is to change the structures of inequality by assaulting the structures and the institutions that keep poverty entrenched in this country ... ," Phillips said to loud applause from the large crowd in the arena.

Phillips' speech to his Comrades was delivered with vitality, having been criticised as suffering from political lethargy. His pronouncement that the party was committed to abolishing the apartheid system of education in Jamaica, was well received by the audience, most of who remained inside the arena as a result of the heavy rains which fell.

"We make some simple commitments. We will mobilise the whole society to do this. The private sector, the churches, the teachers, the parents, community-based organisations. We make the commitment that the next PNP government will provide every student with at least one meal daily because people can't learn on a hungry belly," Phillips told the crowd of largely women.

He also promised to utilise the services of retired teachers to develop educational centres of excellence.

Phillips said a PNP government would create a centre of excellence by mobilising the "most massive" education expertise comprising retired teachers that are administrators. He said that the plan is to target every school and classroom interacting with every teacher in the underperforming schools and lifting them up until they are all at the same standard. He made it clear, however, that for this to become a reality, it would require the participation of all sectors of the society.