- I will focus my total attention on the initiatives which we have taken in the constituency over the 20 years that I have had the honour to represent the communities therein.
- For my initial period as MP, my interventions in the education system were the usual, including assistance with back to school expenses.
- The enormity of the problem we faced was brought home to me when I was presented with a report from the Ministry of Education which indicated that several students were “at risk”.
It has become the norm for speakers in the Sectoral Debate to take a few minutes to speak of their constituencies. I will be no different, but I will focus my total attention on the initiatives which we have taken in the constituency over the 20 years that I have had the honour to represent the communities therein.
I take this step, not simply to publicly proclaim our achievements, but more importantly to share with other MPs possible steps which they can take to raise the educational levels in their own constituencies.
I take this opportunity to say special welcome to my two Councillors and support staff in my constituency office. I salute them, because they are as committed as I am to making education the primary thrust of our political activity in South St Andrew.
For that reason, today represented in the gathering are persons from each level of the educational system in South St Andrew. I will briefly describe the programmes which are in effect and indicate the successes we have reaped to date and the challenges which remain.
Mr Speaker, as I said earlier, last December I celebrated 20 years of representing South St. Andrew. I must confess that for my initial period as MP, my interventions in the education system were the usual – assistance with back to school expenses and support for the acquisition of basic pieces of equipment needed by schools.
The enormity of the problem we faced was brought home to me when I was presented with a report from the Ministry of Education which indicated that two-thirds of the students at the primary level in the constituency were “at risk”. That meant that these students were either fully or functionally illiterate.
Immediately after seeing those depressing statistics, I received a letter from a friend, Mrs Paulette Latibeaudiere, who was then President of an organization called the Jamaica Association for Children with Learning Disabilities. She and the team at the Association had seen the same data as I had, and they requested a meeting with me to discuss steps which, they claimed, could address the problem.
She and the then Executive Director at the Association, Mrs Joan Ernandez, met with me and after we reviewed the disturbing statistics, they claimed that they could “fix the problem”. They argued that teaching children to read was a well-developed technique and once they had learned to read and, more important, had been taught to appreciate the world opened up through reading, all things were possible.
Naturally, I doubted their claims but felt that, as the budget which they presented was relatively small, I had nothing to lose.
The rest as they say “is history.” The first concrete sign that their formula was working, came in the results of the Grade 4 Examination followed by the rather spectacular improvement in the GSAT results two years later.
Mr Speaker, the usual number of GSAT passes to traditional schools each year used to be about 25. The first year following the introduction of the programme there were over 100 such passes obtained by the students from primary schools in the constituency…READ MORE