Jamaican Honorary Consul Cites Education as Top Priority


Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Seattle, Washington, Enid Dwyer, has said that education was a major priority area in the country, and pledged even greater levels of support for current educational initiatives, particularly at the secondary level.
She described access to quality education as an “effective investment and a guarantee for future economic and social advancement”, and asserted that the Jamaican community in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States was committed to redoubling on-going efforts to support current government programmes, aimed at providing educational opportunities, primarily within disadvantaged communities.
Mrs. Dwyer was speaking to JIS News on her return to Seattle after a visit to the island earlier this month, where she met with officials from the Ministry of Education, as well as other philanthropic and service organizations operating in the island.
During her visit, she conducted a needs assessment with a view to broadening current assistance from the current provision of computer and audio visual equipment to also include school books and other supplies.
She characterized her meetings with the Education Ministry as being “greatly beneficial in understanding the priorities” that existed in the educational system on a macro level. “Our interaction with the Ministry served to provide us with an in-depth understanding of where the needs were and in what areas urgent action was needed,” she said.
Mrs. Dwyer noted that while it was useful for Jamaican citizens, as well as community groups overseas, to maintain and develop relationships with individual schools across the island, it was also important that efforts be made to establish dialogue with the Ministry of Education and to determine ways to more effectively focus the monetary and material assistance which is rendered.
Since her appointment in 1995 as Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in the Seattle area, Mrs. Dwyer has been instrumental in channelling resources to several schools across the island through an organization called Friends of Jamaica Seattle (FOJS), a non-profit entity, which was established for the sole purpose of aiding education in Jamaica.
Through the successful forging of links with the Seattle-based Microsoft Corporation, the Honorary Consul and the Friends of Jamaica organization have assisted schools, including Haile Selassie Secondary School, Mile Gully Secondary School, Morant Bay High School and the Stella Maris Preparatory School, with both software and computer hardware. “Our commitment has also extended beyond the mere shipment of this equipment to Jamaica. Our working protocol also ensures that this equipment is properly installed and is in good working order for the recipient schools,” she said.
Mrs. Dwyer also indicated that the FOJS was fully engaged, subsequent to its meetings in Jamaica, in fulfilling specific commitments of support which were made to the Ministry of Education and other individual institutions. “We are excited about this new partnership which has the potential to benefit many deserving students across the island and, more importantly, to allow Jamaicans in the United States to meaningfully participate in our country’s social and economic development,” she said.
In addition to the emphasis on education, the Honorary Consul told JIS News that the organization, in association with the Seattle consulate, would also be placing great priority on assisting both government and private philanthropic organizations in dealing with the issue of teenage pregnancy. Mrs. Dwyer noted that many teenage mothers were victims of circumstance and that every effort should be made to provide access for these young mothers to educational opportunities.
“We are addressing this concern by directing resources to a local women’s centre for the expressed purpose of providing an option for these young women to continue their schooling subsequent to their giving birth,” she said.
Turning to her work in the Pacific Northwest area to assist Jamaican students, Mrs. Dwyer pointed out that there was an active outreach initiative underway, which currently targeted several Jamaican students who were on athletic scholarships at the University of Washington. In addition, the Friends of Jamaica group also sets aside 10 per cent of proceeds from events staged, for the purpose of aiding other Jamaican students who may be studying in the area.
The Honorary Consul also explained that the Consulate in Seattle had significantly expanded its functions from attending primarily to consular and educational concerns, to assisting Jamaicans in emergency situations with housing, financial assistance, and legal assistance options. In addition, the Consulate has, throughout the years, assisted Jamaicans in custody in federal penal institutions in Washington state, both on a humanitarian level as well as providing them with information relating to securing appropriate legal counsel.

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