2014 Ja Back to School List: Books, Bag, Bucket o’ Water…

A couple of years ago when folks were especially gung-ho about introducing tech (e.g., tablets) into Jamaican schools as the way to improve the education system, I pointed out that too many schools still had pit latrines, and suggested that perhaps the focus should be on upgrading those basic facilities before pushing ahead with integrating tech into our curricula. I was told — with scoffing exuberance — that surely we could focus on integrating tech and upgrading from pit latrines at the same damn time *Diddy’s voice*. I remained skeptical given my observations of how the GOJ has operated (not just current administration) and my expectations for how it would continue to operate. I felt I was being realistic.

Academic year 2014-2015 approaches and just before it begins, the country’s Minister of Education advised students (not jokingly as Jamaica is in the midst of a severe drought that the GOJ grudgingly acknowledged months late) to take water to schools for toilet flushing. Not even the courtesy of an earlier warning. But the students have their tablets though so…carry on I guess. This is how the GOJ chooses to contribute to raising the nation’s children, a demographic too often offhandedly but without real thought referred to as “our future.”

It may be tiresome to read on this blog about the frightening failure of leadership in Jamaica but it’s a pressing concern of mine. This carry-your-water-to-school-to-flush failure of the GOJ is indicative of the frightening leadership failure in Jamaica. An obvious vacuum exists; nature abhors such things and will act accordingly.

IMG_0990.JPGInstead of a population of almost 3 million and its Diaspora being reasonably able to depend on a government (which includes the party in opposition) to provide basic credible leadership we are left to depend on the uncertain generosity of strangers like telecommunications companies. All proper and due respect to Digicel Jamaica (through its Foundation) for providing 10 water tanks to 10 schools across Jamaica. Thank you. Recognize though that Digicel Jamaica is not obligated to give, it does so because of its leadership’s current thinking and policy about corporate social responsibility. Digicel Jamaica is a for-profit concern; its primary obligation is to make money and have a profit after costs. If and when that primary obligation can no longer be met while or is compromised by continuing robust corporate social responsibility activities then I expect a shift away from previous gifts. And I won’t fault them for it. It is not their responsibility to ensure that Jamaica’s schools provide basic resources and sanitary facilities for their students.

I understand quite well that the GOJ cannot currently manage all that it must, but I do not understand and will not accept its willful failure to plainly, publicly, and apolitically acknowledge its incapacity while pleading for Jamaicans to pull together to address what we can. What about parental and personal responsibility or creating a dependency on government you say? I accept that those are important issues to raise, but I raise the ante by challenging you to explain why it is that elected leadership forming a government must not be expected to LEAD? Why must Jamaicans expect and settle for mediocrity from its government? Personal responsibility and action though important for a nation cannot produce efficient results without even broad guidance and direction, or without a framework or atmosphere that encourages. All without primarily depending on “links” and “runnings.”

Instead, in Jamaica we have leadership who choose to sideline and co-opt capable and doing Jamaicans. I call that scare tactics and undermining a nation. We have leadership who choose to mislead with deliberately incomplete information. I call that being dishonest and lacking credibility. We have leadership who choose to attack those who (now) dare to speak up or ask questions. I call that censorship. We have leadership who choose to curse at each other and expect us to accept that as debate, discourse, and discussion. I call that allowing demagoguery.

The vision for Jamaica is non-existent. We have no motivating ethos, no city on a shining hill…no verdant Rock in a glistening Caribbean Sea.

But our children show up to school spic-and-span in freshly ironed uniforms and neat hairdos and line-ups (because of our pride) with tablets (because we’re ever so 21st century) but often hungry with their buckets of water to flush the toilet (because of our leadership).



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