Former Prime Minister and newly installed Chancellor of the University of Technology (UTech), the Most. Hon. Edward Seaga, has said that the country's economic and social advancement depends on education, which he says, "remains the only substantial base for new growth".
"If we want more good news on the job front then we must make more investment in education. Education must be a tool for learning and earning," Mr. Seaga stated, noting that education can create wealth, uplift the poor, and ensure equal rights and justice.
He was speaking at his installation ceremony held on March 16 at UTech's Old Hope Road campus in Kingston, where he was also conferred with a Honorary Degree of Doctor of Letters.
Noting the vital role of universities in job creation and social transformation, Mr. Seaga called for these institutions to be incentivised to strengthen their task in these areas. "It is the institutions on which our future will depend to transform hopelessness to hopefulness, it is the powerhouse of intellectual energy, the bank of human resources, and the soul of the society," he stated.
He noted further that university graduates "can scale the wall of social exclusion, raise their own status in the society (as they become) earners of higher incomes through academic achievement. More importantly, it is the most effective way of reducing the gap between the haves and the have-nots, a national imperative".
Likening universities to factories, which create jobs, he said it cost less to finance the education of a university graduate on the average, than it does to create most manufacturing jobs.
He argued further that universities require no cost to foreign exchange to provide raw materials and capital goods, but they earn foreign exchange by producing foreign exchange earners through remittances.
“So, why not think out of the box? Consider the universities to be factories, rather than a constraint, to reduce the wasted human resources of the country. Incentivise them,” he urged.
Mr. Seaga noted that UTech is now a medium-sized institution but can grow even further given the freedom to do so. He informed that a recent poll shows that 83 per cent of UTech graduates find employment within the first six months. “I’m proud to be a part of this dynamic at this time,” he stated.
Mr. Seaga served as Jamaica’s fifth Prime Minister from 1980 to 1989, and is a distinguished Fellow of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Fellow of the Institute of Jamaica, and Pro-Chancellor of UTech from 2007 to 2010.
His scholarly output includes several publications and lectures on a number of subjects including education, politics, culture, economics and Caribbean development. He recently published an autobiography and is engaged in research and writing as a Distinguished Fellow of the UWI.
“I express the sincere hope and wish of the members, that (UTech) may flourish and prosper under your guidance and direction, "President of UTech, Professor, Hon. Errol Morrison, stated as he presented Mr. Seaga with the Mace of Knowledge, symbolising the “power of knowledge as the path to progress and a weapon against ignorance".
The ceremony was attended by scores of persons from academia, members of the diplomatic corps, government ministers and officials, and Leader of the Opposition, Hon. Portia Simpson Miller.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter