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Minister of Education, Rev. the Hon. Ronald Thwaites, says over 800 schools will be hosting events to celebrate Jamaica’s independence on Monday, August 6.

The Minister noted that when the request was first made of the schools there were murmurs of disquiet which surprised him, knowing the importance of the school, which is the centre of the community.

“However, the Permanent Secretary tells me that we have had positive replies, and that functions will take place in over 800 of our schools on Monday. Jamaica is alive,” he said.

The Minister was speaking at a Jamaica 50 celebration event at the Ministry of Education,  on August 3, 2012. The event began with a flag raising ceremony, where cadets from Kingston College did a re-enactment of the first Independence by lowering the Union Jack and hoisting the Jamaican flag.

Applauding the cadets, Rev. Thwaites said that come September, the Ministry will be making a special effort to reintroduce the uniformed groups in all schools. He noted that the uniform groups will assist in teaching discipline and respect of national symbols, such as the flag and pledge.

He also spoke to the significance of the lowering of the Union Jack and raising of the Black Green and Gold. “Now we are responsible for ourselves and we have to make sure that as adults and as children growing to be adults, we are going to stand by our own sense of responsibility and purpose. We have nobody else to blame,” the Minister said.                                                                                                                    

Rev. Thwaites pointed out that having access to education was a big achievement over the last 50 years.  “What we have to do now is to ensure that we have equity and quality throughout the whole education system. We don’t have that yet and that is our mission, and each of us has to ensure that this happens,” he emphasised.

In the meantime, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry, Grace McLean, reminded everyone just how far the Jamaican education system has come since Independence.

“In 1962 we were still struggling to provide access and equity in the education system, especially at the high school level. It was during the 60s that we started the build out of our secondary schools. It was during the 60s that the new deal for education came into being, as well as the 70/30 policy, which provided access for many who were denied the opportunity to secondary education, because of the colour of their skin,” she said.

Mrs. McLean noted that the system has made significant strides since then. “We have since then developed education the way upwards in the 1990s and the Task Force report on education in 1994, which is now paving the way for new experiences for us, ensuring that we provide quality education for all in this country,” she said.

The Permanent Secretary said that despite all the achievements, “we cannot become complacent, because there is still much more to be done."  She called on her colleagues to recommit themselves to continue to improve education over the next 50 years.

The event saw staff members and friends of the Ministry of Education celebrating Jamaica 50 in song, dance, poetry and food. There were also exhibits on display from the Institute of Jamaica and other groups.