A time for renewal

Added: 02 Apr 2018

The Daily Observer

April 2, 2018

by Jean Lowrie-Chin

Last week’s Cabinet reshuffle was a signal from Prime Minister Andrew Holness that leadership must respond to the demands of the times. The announcement was followed by the usual kudos and criticism — the right of free speech in our precious democracy. Most of the protests were due to the movement of Minister Audley Shaw from finance to industry, commerce, agriculture and fisheries. However, we wholeheartedly agree with him that this is in no way a demotion. Indeed, it is a powerhouse ministry that can help us achieve that ‘5-in-4’ growth, by tackling our stunting bureaucracy, supporting our hard-working farmers with game-changing technology, and providing enticing opportunities to stanch our ominous brain drain.

The promotion of Minister Fayval Williams to full Cabinet status is encouraging for those of us who have been advocating for more women in public sector leadership. She will be the fifth woman in our Cabinet joining ministers Olivia “Babsy” Grange, Shahine Robinson, Kamina Johnson Smith, and Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte.

There is a balance of youth and age in the Cabinet, as we welcome the brilliant new Minister of Finance Nigel Clarke and state ministers Alando Terrelonge and Xavier Mayne, while noting that those astute seniors ministers Mike Henry and Karl Samuda have been assigned to the Office of the Prime Minister.

The hard-working Minister Robert Montague steps across to the substantial Transport and Mining Ministry, while the durable Minister Horace Chang takes up the challenging Ministry of National Security.

We should make it our duty to support our ministers and Members of Parliament on both sides of the political divide in their efforts to develop and protect of our country. Our Opposition is expected to contribute and criticise, but we should never forget our higher purpose of unity for the greater good.

This is the 20th year of the Food For the Poor prison ministry programme, which has seen the release of hundreds of non-violent inmates at Easter and Christmas by paying their fines. Among the 113 released in the region for Easter were two women from Fort Augusta and three from the St Catherine Adult Correctional Centre, Richmond Farm Adult Correctional Centre, and the Black River Police Station. Each was given words of encouragement, a hot meal, personal care items, and money for transportation home.

“I prayed for God to provide something new for me and my family, something different for us to start over… a new life,” one of the women said through tears. “I believe, with all my heart, that Food For the Poor coming here today to pay my fine is a direct answer from God. Even last night I prayed and I said, ‘God, free me, please,’ and today, I am a free woman.”

Additionally, more than 7,000 former inmates also have benefited from Food For the Poor Jamaica’s (FFPJ) Fresh Start Programme that helps with profitable jobs, such as welding, carpentry and farming. Two young brothers in St Catherine who previously had their fines paid for by Food For the Poor started a successful car-washing business. FFPJ staff and local police officers are some of their most loyal customers.


Strong year for the British Council

Under the leadership of Olayinka Jacobs-Bonnick, the British Council Jamaica office has recorded a strong 2017-2018 on three programme pillars:

• basic education and core skills;

• the arts and creative economy; and

• social enterprise and youth engagement.


The organisation presented results of their work at an event hosted by British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad.

The ‘Backstage to the Future’ project, led by Andrea Dempster-Chung, saw Alpha Institute students Patrick Garrel and Najay Pearce interning in festival management at Rebel Salute. They did so well that they have been offered jobs at next year’s event.

‘Have We Met Before’ was an emotional journey — Annalee Davis, the council’s Caribbean arts manager, notes, “The National Gallery facilitated a conversation led by artists on the histories of slavery, the transatlantic slave trade and present-day implications.”

The council’s work in equality, diversity and inclusion, described by Project and Resources Coordinator George Young, included work with the Salvation Army School for the Blind, Inclusion Diversity Summit, and a Deaf Poetry Slam with the Book Industry Association of Jamaica. “This was the first time that deaf poets have taken to the stage in Jamaica,” the report noted. Kamar Groves, board member of the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, signed his appreciation.

Nadene Newsome, project manager for education, says the ‘Core Skills for Teachers’ programme enjoyed an overwhelming response. The training manual has targeted six core skills and competencies:

• Critical thinking and problem solving;

• Collaboration and communication;

• Creativity and imagination;

• Citizenship;

• Digital literacy;

• Student leadership and personal development.


Indeed, these skills will assist in job-readiness in this age of artificial intelligence.

The ‘school-to-work transition gap’, as described by Damion Campbell, manager for social enterprise and youth, was addressed in a social enterprise programme for secondary schools in collaboration with Victoria Mutual Building Society. This should upskill an impressive 16,000 students. Congratulations to the council on their meaningful work.


Kiwanis-Jarrett’s Literacy

The Kiwanis Club of Downtown Kingston/Jarrett’s Literacy Programme is the winner of the Eastern Canada and Caribbean Kiwanis District Signature Project and will be a finalist in the Kiwanis International Signature Project Awards in June. It is an initiative of Norman Jarrett, chairman of the club’s Human and Spiritual Values Committee, and his wife, educator and poet Cecile Jarrett.

“The competition, which is supported by the Ministry of Education and endorsed by Member of Parliament Desmond McKenzie, seeks to improve literacy among grade four to six students in one of 13 selected schools in downtown Kingston each year,” notes Cecile Jarrett.

“The Holy Family Primary and Infant School was selected for the launch of the initiative in 2011. Just over 700 students have benefited from the programme to date. Having been at Chetolah Park Primary, Denham Town Primary, St Alban’s Primary, and St Michael’s Primary it is now moving into St George’s Girls’ Primary and Infant School this academic year. So far, principals have lauded it as a successful intervention.”

One of the fund-raising events, their ‘Poets on Parade’, now in its sixth year, will be held next Sunday under the patronage of Jamaica’s Poet Laureate Lorna Goodison at the St George’s Girls’ Primary and Infant School in downtown Kingston.

I am honoured to join Cecile Jarrett, Michael Abrahams, Randy McLaren, and others for this inspiring concert at the school’s auditorium. Committee chair is Vernon Barrett. Please support.