Friday, 27 May 2016

Corrupt Promotion Policies in Education

Corruption is the enemy of development and of good governance. It must be got rid of. Both the government and the people at large must come together to achieve this national objective. Pratibbha Patil
Jamaica’s education system is at a critical juncture.  Since gaining political independence in 1962, the island has suffered from corruption, a lack of transparency and accountability across all sectors. At the same time the society has experimented with numerous educational policies and reform programmes, however, we have failed to achieve equity for our students with regards to outcomes.
In February of 2004, then Prime Minister, PJ Patterson appointed a 14 member task force on educational reform to modernize the island’s education system. The Educational System Transformation Programme (ESTP) emerged in response to the assessment of the performance of Jamaica’s education sector. While we must commend the tremendous work of the Task Force, especially, with regards to the ground breaking recommendations many of which are in place, the society needs to demand more accountability in the area of school leadership and management.
Recently, Professor Paul Miller, reader in education at Brunel University in the United Kingdom, questioned the corrupt promotion policies which continue to hurt Jamaica’s education system.
Professor Miller stated “those persons more likely to get promoted were those who were in favour with a school’s administration and local education ministry officials”.
While corruption policies practices are not unique to Jamaica or to the education sector, we should be very concerned and ask ourselves if as a country we can continue to embrace such a culture to the detriment of our human capital as well as to Jamaica’s development.
Successive governments over the years have been tardy to root out corrupt promotion policies in the island’s education system. Disturbingly, such practices have now become embedded in the cultural DNA of the Jamaican society. The corrupt promotion policies does not rest solely at the level of principalship, it extends itself to middle management at all schools, where the appointment of senior teachers is done at the whim and fancy of principals, many of whom do not have the best interest of education or their students at heart.  To add insult to injury, many principals who are underachievers continue to have extensions given to them by the education ministry even as they reach the age of retirement. This practice ought to cease with immediate effect. We cannot afford as a society to continue to reward poor leadership.
We have replaced a culture of meritocracy to one of connectedness. Sadly, in the process we have destroyed the innovation and creativity among a sizeable percentage of teachers. We must at all times remember that we preparing students for their future, not our past.
We have allowed the influence of politics to hijack the teaching and learning process, which has resulted in many of our school underperforming as is documented by the National Education Inspectorate (NEI) report of 2014. The NEI report stated that more than (60%) sixty per cent of the country, s primary and secondary schools are failing in their education delivery to students.
As a society we are not data driven. Many schools have ignored the recommendations of the NEI report. We no longer hold principals accountable. In too many instances our schools are operated like private business for the well being of the principals and a selected highly favoured cohort of middle management. Who cares about the welfare of our children? 
Education is often referred to as the catalyst of change, however, in a corrupt environment; change is often slow and leads to frustration among the stakeholders. A school is more than a place to impart knowledge. Schools are channels of values and attitudes which are necessary for the social integration and cohesiveness in the society.
The country will continue to hemorrhage, as long as we embrace principal prejudice and turn a blind eye to corrupt practices. Let us reject the old style of doing things. The world is moving ahead and shunning corruption. It cannot be business as per usual. Jamaica at a time like this require bold leadership, not only at the national level, but at all levels throughout the society. We need and should demand men and women of impeccable character to lead our children. Our schools need to engage their communities in more outreach programmes in order to have a more inclusive approach to education.  Let us be courageous and remove politics and indicators of affiliation from school board appointments as this contributes to corrupt promotion policies. We need to empower our school boards to stand up to those principals who are corrupt and who continue to divide our schools. The education ministry needs to show leadership in this regard and do what is right and put in place transformational leaders in our schools. The society needs to be more proactive and demand more transparency and accountability within the education sector.
In the words of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.
#leadership #nepotism #politics #transparency #education #corruption #schoolboards #management #children #learning #accountability #Jamaica

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Youth Entrepreneurship As A Vehicle To Enhance Economic Growth

As far as I can remember Jamaicans have had to deal with austerity measures. A significant number of Jamaicans can recall the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP’s) of the 1970’s, resulting from the complex and painful relationship with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which continues even to today.
There is a co-relation between poverty and a culture of entrepreneurship. This association between poverty and entrepreneurship has genesis in Jamaica’s folk culture. Cultural icon and scholar, Lousie Bennett Coverley urges us to “tun our hands and make fashion”, however, many of us due to pride refuse from lifting a finger to help ourselves.  A recent study done on the role poverty plays on entrepreneurial activity  by Laura Doering, assistant professor at University of Toronto’s, Rotman School of Management revealed that entrepreneurs are both catalyzed and limited by conditions of poverty. In the same research Jamaica was placed seventh among the countries with the most entrepreneurs. The list was headed by Uganda, Thailand and Brazil and was rounded off by Cameroon, Vietnam, Angola, Botswana and Chile. The study looked at the percentage of the population who owned or co-owned a business. This findings support local research which indicates that there is a rise in young Chief Executive Officers. According to a recent newspaper report, the lack of opportunities, a high unemployment rate, the unbridled willingness to take risks and a strong enthusiasm to be successful are fuelling an increasing number of young Jamaicans to go into their own business.
In tough economic times the creativity and innovation of a nation, especially the youth population usually is spurred into action resulting in job creation and wealth building.
The time has come for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information to formally introduce a Youth Entrepreneurship course in the national curriculum. The society urgently requires a paradigm shift in education in which graduates are empowered to create their own jobs instead of waiting to be called for employment. The economy has been stagnating over the years and as a result not enough jobs are created to meet the needs of the thousands of students who graduate yearly from secondary and tertiary institutions. It bear thought that with Jamaica’s high crime rate the government needs to explore more possibilities associated with youth entrepreneurship to reduce our crime rate. At present the country has too many unattached and at -risk youths, especially young men. The education system must move with the times and become more proactive in order to meet the needs of our youth population.
Our students must be equipped with the knowledge, for example, to conduct a feasibility study in order to determine which areas of business are in demand.
With globalization, the entrepreneur no longer has to confine his/her business plans locally. This has led to new possibilities especially for the tech savvy youth. The growth of social media has assisted tremendously in fostering business relationship and provides a great marketing tool for goods and services.
According to the newspaper report small and medium-size business (SME’s) are seeing a paradigm shift as young adults are turned off by the nine to five workforce. We need to provide more funding for those risk takers who are willing to create their own jobs by ensuring attractive interest rates are available. We also need to ensure that training especially in packaging and design are available to our local entrepreneurs. 
In the words of Richard Branson, “for a successful entrepreneur it can mean extreme wealth. But with extreme wealth comes extreme responsibility. And the responsibility for me is to invest in creating new businesses, create jobs, employ people, and to put money aside to tackle issues where we can make a difference”. As a society we need to move towards a culture of entrepreneurship as this is only way Jamaica will overcome the challenges of crime and high unemployment we face as a nation.
Wayne Campbell
#employment #globalization #Jamaica #youth #entrepreneurship #empowerment #crime #socialmedia

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Guard Against Hypertension

Hypertension or high blood pressure is quite frequently referred to as the silent killer.  Sadly, many of us will not realize that we are hypertensive until it is too late.
Each year on May 17, the global community pauses to reflect and commemorate World Hypertension Day (WHD). The first World Hypertension (WHD) was held in 2005. It is estimated that about 70 million Americans adults have high blood pressure.  According to The Jamaican Hypertension Prevalence Study, the island has a point prevalence of hypertension of 30.8% in the 15 and over age group.  It is estimated that nearly a third of all Americans adults have prehypertension which is a condition in which one’s blood pressure numbers are higher than normal, but not in the high blood pressure range.
The theme for WHD 2016 is “Know Your Numbers”. We must all be reminded that it is only by getting ourselves checked that we will know our blood pressure.  Blood pressure is measured using two numbers-systolic and diastolic pressure. The upper number is the Systolic while the Diastolic is the lower number.
Hypertension is a contributing factor in a significant number of deaths annually and we must become more proactive to change this narrative or else, we too will become a statistic.
Diseases such as heart attack, strokes, kidney diseases and erectile dysfunction are associated with high blood pressure.
The health care toll on a country can be overwhelming to treat all those who require medical and health care services. It is estimated that at least $46 billion is spent annually in the USA on health care costs. This cost is further broken down in terms of hospitalization, loss productivity, visits to doctors, medications and health care services.  
Men and women have different needs regarding health care. It is clear from a cultural perspective that many men have a fear of going to the doctor; however, it is time as men we let go of this and get checked. What you do not know can kill you!  There is no such thing as a macho dead man.  Men need to realize that masculinity is not static, but rather a fluid construct.
There are some simple things we can all do to reduce our risks of becoming hypertensive. We need to engage in more physical activity, especially since many of us have live a sedentary lifestyle. Invest in your health, get a skipping rope, or walk around your block where you live, get moving. We also need to maintain a healthy body weight and watch the amount of salt we take into our bodies.
Let us all collaborate in raising the awareness regarding the risks associated with hypertension and our health on this World Hypertension Day. 
#hypertension #physicalactivity #lifestyle  
Wayne Campbell

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Fire Hydrants: Problems and Solutions

Fire safety and prevention should be everyone’s concern, regardless of the structure of your house or socio-economic status. Last week, a news item on television showed how challenging the job of a firefighter is in the absence of working fire hydrants across Jamaica. A fire hydrant is a connection point by which firefighters can tap into a water supply. In the news item, fire fighters, upon the arrival of the scene of the fire, discovered that the fire hydrant was not in working condition. As a result, their work was severely hampered and house burnt out completely. One can only wonder what if the fire hydrant was working.
We need to ask whose responsibility it is for the maintenance of fire hydrants. We need to develop some standards for the safeguarding of the country’s fire hydrants. Fire hydrants can be affected by the regular wear and tear, vandalism and mechanical function. However, years ago, our fire hydrants were regularly serviced which included painting and the greasing of caps.
We clearly need to revisit the issue of fire hydrants as it relates to fire safety and prevention. In the same way in which we have employed environmental wardens; why not employ fire hydrants wardens to ensure the maintenance of these essential elements of fire safety and protection? There is clearly a need for a public education campaign regarding the care and protection of the nation's fire hydrants.  Additionally, more fire hydrants are required throughout the country, this should become a requirement especially in newly constructed housing schemes.
The Jamaica Fire Brigade tagline speaks to saving lives and protecting property, however, if there are not working fire hydrants their mandate will be difficult to achieve.  In some jurisdictions for example, in Ireland and the United Kingdom, fire hydrants are located in the ground. The government needs to explore all options regarding having fire hydrants which work. We need to find the resources to ensure this. A country will not attract investments if there is not a robust fire prevention and safety apparatus in place. 
#fire #firehydrants #Jamaica
Wayne Campbell